FILE PHOTO: Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, arrives for the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Democratic U.S. senator said on Wednesday he found “very disturbing” a comment by President Donald Trump that he might get involved in the case of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei Technologies Co [HWT.UL].
Meng, the 46-year-old daughter of the Huawei founder, is in Canada fighting an extradition request from the United States and faces U.S. claims she misled multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.
She was released on bail by a Canadian court on Tuesday after being arrested at the request of the United States as she was changing planes in Vancouver on Dec. 1.
Trump said in a Reuters interview on Tuesday he would intervene with the Justice Department in the case against Meng if it would help secure a trade deal with Beijing.At a Senate hearing on Chinese espionage, Senator Richard Blumenthal said he was concerned about the comment by Trump, saying it made it looked like U.S. law enforcement “is a tool of either trade or political or diplomatic ends of this country.”
In response to Blumenthal, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said the Justice Department is not “a tool of trade.”
“What we do at the Justice Department is law enforcement. We don’t do trade,” Demers said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday warned the United States not to politicize extradition cases, a day after President Donald Trump said he could intervene in the affair of a Chinese executive detained in Canada at Washington’s request.
A saleswoman serves customers at a Huawei shop in Beijing, China December 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee
Freeland also told reporters that a second Canadian citizen could be in trouble in China. Authorities in China are already holding former diplomat Michael Kovrig, who was detained on Monday.
China has strongly protested the arrest in Vancouver on Dec. 1 of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou. Meng has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of misleading multinational banks about Iran-linked transactions, putting the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions. She has said she is innocent.
Trump told Reuters on Tuesday he would intervene here in the U.S. Justice Department’s case against Meng if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.
But the legal process should not be hijacked for political purposes, Freeland said.
“Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than the pursuit of justice and following the rule of law,” Freeland said when asked about Trump’s comments.
Others also questioned whether Trump might be misusing the extradition request.
“This is a legal issue and one that appears properly executed but your comments can only diminish an important extradition agreement we have with our next door neighbor,” said Bruce Heyman, an ex-U.S. ambassador to Canada who was appointed by President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor.
Meng was released on bail by a Canadian court on Tuesday.
The United States has not yet made a formal extradition petition. Once it does, if a Canadian judge rules in favor of the request, Canada’s justice minister must decide whether to extradite Meng to the United States.
Freeland expressed deep concern over the Kovrig case and said a second unnamed Canadian had made contact with Canadian authorities to say Chinese officials were asking him questions. Canada has not been able to make contact with him since, she added.
Officials said earlier they have no indication from Beijing that Kovrig’s detention was tied to Canada’s arrest of Meng.
But they have seen an uptick in anti-Canadian sentiment online and in China, an official said, and have communicated concerns about diplomatic staff safety to the Chinese government, which beefed up security in response.
“We have in general informed our personnel in Beijing and in our consulates to take extra precautions,” an official said.
Reporting by David Ljunggren and Anna Mehler Paperny; editing by Bernadette Baum and Rosalba O’Brien
“He’s a liar,” the President told associates after the Cohen sentencing, the coverage of which he was carefully on television from the residence of the White House.
Trump was intentionally silent during his one public event on Wednesday in the Roosevelt Room as reporters pressed Trump for reaction to Cohen’s three-year prison sentence and his allegations implicating Trump in federal crimes.
But privately, Trump assailed Cohen as a “liar,” one administration official said.
The President used that word repeatedly in conversations, the official said, echoing what he has repeatedly said in public in recent weeks.
The White House also did not comment on Wednesday, but when pressed, an official pointed CNN to a tweet that Trump sent last week, saying it perfectly reflects his feelings.
“He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence,” Trump tweeted last week.
Cohen has implicated Trump in a felony, saying he violated campaign finance laws at Trump’s direction. Trump has denied any wrongdoing, but the proceedings represented an extraordinary turnabout for Cohen, the first member of Trump’s inner circle to receive a prison sentence this year.
“I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds,” Cohen told the court.
Cohen was once one of Trump’s closest advisers, working with him at the Trump Organization for more than a decade before becoming one of his most vocal public defenders during his presidential run.
Trump has repeatedly belittled Cohen, his onetime protector, but Cohen may have the last word, as he told the judge: “I will continue to cooperate with the government.”
NEW YORK (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday for crimes including orchestrating hush payments to women in violation of campaign laws before the 2016 election, and he promised to keep cooperating with the U.S. government against his former boss.
The sentence, which capped a stunning about-face by a lawyer who once vowed to “take a bullet” for Trump, was handed down by a judge in New York on the same day as news that the publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid had struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid charges over its role in one of two hush payments involving Trump.
The publisher admitted the payment was aimed at influencing the 2016 election, contradicting Trump’s statements.
The twin developments highlighted the growing political and legal risks for Trump from a months-long investigation into the payments by federal prosecutors. Some legal experts said Trump could be charged after leaving office. Justice Department policy is not to indict a sitting president.
“These prosecutors have charged or reached agreement with everyone involved in this process save one notable exception,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. “It seems likely that this effort is directed at building a larger case against Donald Trump.”
Cohen had said in a guilty plea in August that he was directed by Trump to arrange a payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal, and personally pay adult-film star Stormy Daniels. Prosecutors in New York confirmed last week in a court filing that they believed the president ordered the payments to protect his campaign.
Trump has denied the affairs and argues the payments to the two women were not campaign contributions. “If it were, it’s only civil, and even if it’s only civil, there was no violation based on what we did,” Trump said in an interview on Tuesday.
“From the president’s point of view, it was to protect his family,” Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Reuters.
In the Manhattan courtroom, Cohen told U.S. District Judge William Pauley that “blind loyalty” led him to cover up for Trump. Cohen said he was ready to provide “as much information as I truthfully possess” on the president.
“I am committed to proving my integrity and ensuring that history will not remember me as the villain of his story,” Cohen said, choking up at times while giving his statement. “I am truly sorry and I promise I will be better.”
Pauley sentenced Cohen to three years for the payments, and unrelated crimes of tax evasion and misleading banks. He gave Cohen two months for lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia. The judge said the two terms would run simultaneously and he set March 6 for Cohen’s surrender.
While the sentence was a modest reduction from the four to five years recommended under federal guidelines, Pauley described Cohen’s crimes as a “smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct” marked by deception and “motivated by personal greed.” He ordered Cohen to forfeit $500,000 and pay restitution of nearly $1.4 million.
Cohen, 52, walked into court with his wife, son and daughter amid a crowd of photographers and reporters. His 23-year-old daughter, Samantha, and 19-year-old son, Jake, both wept silently in the courtroom, the son wiping his eyes with his jacket sleeve.
Cohen’s father, Maurice, a Holocaust survivor who helped convince his son to cooperate with prosecutors against Trump, showed little emotion during the hearing but later told reporters: “My heart is ripped.”
Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former attorney, exits the United States Court house after his sentencing, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., December 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Pauley sentenced Cohen for two cases – one involving the financial crimes prosecuted by attorneys in the Southern District of New York and the other for lying to Congress brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The Special Counsel is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Russia denies U.S. allegations of election interference and Trump denies collusion.
Prosecutors have said Cohen, just before the November 2016 election, paid Daniels $130,000 and helped arrange the $150,000 payment to McDougal so the women would keep quiet. Federal law requires that the contribution of “anything of value” to a campaign must be disclosed, and an individual donation cannot exceed $2,700.
“It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” Cohen told the judge during the sentencing hearing, referring to Trump.
“I felt it was my duty to cover up his own dirty deeds,” Cohen added.
The Mueller investigation represents a threat to Trump’s presidency. Mueller, who also is examining whether the president has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe, has secured guilty pleas from several former Trump aides including his former campaign chairman and national security adviser, and has indicted several Russia individuals and entities.
One of Mueller’s prosecutors praised Cohen’s cooperation, arguing it should be a mitigating factor in his defense.
“He has provided valuable information, investigative information, to us,” attorney Jeannie Rhee told the judge.
‘MOST POWERFUL PERSON’
Cohen’s lawyer likened the political storm that engulfed his client to Watergate, the 1970’s scandal in which the testimony of White House counsel John Dean helped bring down the Nixon presidency, as a way of emphasizing the pressures he faced.
“He came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in the country,” Guy Petrillo told the court in a bid for leniency.
Lanny Davis, a lawyer who is advising Cohen on his media strategy, said his client wanted to testify in front of Congress after Mueller completes his investigation and issues a report, which is expected in the coming months.
“I look forward to assisting Michael to state publicly all he knows about Mr. Trump – and that includes any appropriate congressional committee interested in the search for truth and the difference between facts and lies,” Davis said in a statement.
Cohen was part of Trump’s inner circle who in the past called himself the president’s “fixer.” After Cohen pleaded guilty to the Mueller charges on Nov. 29, Trump called his former lawyer a liar, “a weak person and not a very smart person.”
Slideshow (10 Images)
Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, attended the sentencing and told reporters outside the courthouse, “Michael Cohen is neither a hero nor a patriot. He lied for months about his conduct. … Michael Cohen was sentenced today, President Trump is next.”
Trump has accused Mueller’s team of pressuring his former aides to lie about him, his campaign and his business dealings.
Reporting By Brendan Pierson, Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld in New York; writing by Grant McCool; editing by Will Dunham
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) leaves after a closed intelligence briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 12, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday she supported a proposal that would limit her to four years as House speaker, likely paving the way for her to win the post in January when Democrats take control of the chamber.
Twenty-four melting iceberg pieces have been placed in front of the Tate Modern museum in London, the latest work of Scandinavian artist Olafur Eliasson.
Eliasson partnered with geologist Minik Rosing for the “Ice Watch” installation. Tate Modern said in a news release the two dozen blocks of ice, which weighed between 1.5 and 5 tons when they were installed, were fished out of a fjord in Greenland after detaching from an ice sheet.
The ice melting in Central London is meant as a reminder that more Arctic ice is melting as a result of global warming, contributing to a rise in sea levels.
Tate Modern said Eliasson and Rosing “hope many more people will understand the reality of climate change by experiencing ‘Ice Watch.'”
“Although we may have seen photographs of the melting ice caps, we rarely have a physical experience of these conditions,” Tate Modern said.
The remark triggered pushback from law enforcement officials, criticism from lawmakers and concern from legal and business analysts who said it’s not only a weak bargaining move that might create more friction with allies, but it represents a “poisonous” precedent that could eventually undermine the safety of Americans overseas.
“The US, like Canada, we’re both rule of law countries based on a constitution, legal principles, rule of law,” said William Reinsch, the Scholl chair for international business at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Our history is that things like this proceed through the criminal justice system and justice is blind. Trump is basically saying he might interfere with this process, which is a terrible precedent.”
The CFO of Chinese tech giant Huawei was arrested December 1 in Vancouver for violating US sanctions on Iran — the same night Trump was dining with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G20 summit in Argentina.
‘I would certainly intervene’
“Whatever’s good for this country, I would do,” Trump told Reuters. “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”
While Trump’s assertion to Reuters violates a basic American tenet, Reinsch notes that, “on the other hand, this is exactly the kind of thing China understands … because China isn’t a rule of law country and that’s what they would do.”
There are also the unintended consequences to worry about, said Michael Zeldin, a CNN legal analyst and former global leader of the anti-money laundering/terrorist financing and economic and trade sanctions practice at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in Washington.
“The danger is the unintended consequence of an American citizen abroad being arrested and held hostage to the arresting state’s economic, trade desires,” Zeldin told CNN. “But now we’ve set the appropriateness of Americans abroad being held hostage to trade deals. There’s too much danger in that,” Zeldin added. “If I was counseling the President I would say those two things should not be coupled.”
If Trump were able to follow through on his impulse, it could also create more friction with Canada, Reinsch said. “It seems to me to be an odd thing to say at this point in the process,” he said. “She’s not in US jurisdiction. She’s in Canadian jurisdiction. Intervening in the process means he would talk to [Canadian Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau, who has said more than once the normal judicial process will go ahead. It just creates another point of friction with Canada.”
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters Wednesday that she has spoken with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Meng’s case. When asked about Trump’s comments, Freeland said Canada is not responsible for the behavior of other countries. “Canada will very faithfully follow the rule of law,” she said.
‘Let them grovel’
While Reinsch is adamant that Trump’s suggestion is not “the way we should be behaving,” he said that if Trump went ahead, it would be “a tactical mistake.”
“If you’re going to do it, the way to do it is make the Chinese come to us,” Reinsch said. “Let them grovel for a bit and then respond. You don’t give them what they want up front. What do we get if he does that? Nothing.”
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, top national security, counterintelligence and cybersecurity officials testifying on Chinese espionage threats also pushed back on Trump’s comments.
“What I do, what we do at the Justice Department, is law enforcement. We don’t do trade,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the department’s top national security official, said at when asked about the remarks.
“We follow the facts and we vindicate violations of US law. That’s what we’re doing when we bring those cases, and I think it’s very important for other countries to understand that we are not a tool of trade when we bring the cases,” he added.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat who had asked the officials for their take on the President’s comments, said he felt “the danger of the President’s statement is that it makes it look like law enforcement is a tool of either trade or political or diplomatic ends of this country.”
‘Not in this one’
“That may be true in other countries,” Blumenthal said, “but not in this one.” The President’s remark was “extremely disturbing to me,” he said.
“It seems to me,” the senator added, “that the President does a disservice to the work as well as the image of our nation in terms of law enforcement.”
Demers told the committee that if Meng is extradited from Canada, as the US has requested, “our criminal case will continue,” he said. He declined to comment further on the case.
Bill Priestap, the FBI assistant director in charge of the counterintelligence division, simply said the FBI would simply follow the motto “do your job.”
“From the FBI’s end, we’re going to continue to do our job,” he said.
Meng was arrested earlier this month at an airport in Vancouver, Canada, at the request of the US government, authorities have said.
On Tuesday, Meng stepped out of detention after 10 days behind bars when a judge in Canada approved her release on $10 million Canadian bail ($7.5 million US).
Officials in China, where the judicial system is subordinate to the Communist Party, will have a hard time believing Meng’s arrest was due to the wheels of justice turning at their own pace, Reinsch said.
“They’ll believe it has nothing do with a judge in” New York who issued the warrant for her arrest in August, he said.
Instead, said Reinsch, a former president of the National Foreign Trade Council with long experience on US-China ties, the Chinese will see the arrest as “a plot to gain leverage in the [trade] negotiations, a plot to embarrass China, a plot to go after Huawei — any number of plots, pick your plot.”
That highlights another problem with Trump’s remarks, Reinsch said. “It will be seen as validation of what they already think, that we’re not a rule of law country,” he said. “That’s what makes it so poisonous, that they’ll think we’re just like them and we’re not.”
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper has admitted it paid hush money to a former Playboy magazine model to prevent her from going public ahead of the 2016 election with claims that she had an affair with President Donald Trump.
Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal poses at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills in 1998. REUTERS/Files
Federal prosecutors in New York said on Wednesday that American Media Inc (AMI) [AMRCM.UL], as part of a deal to cooperate with prosecutors and avoid charges, admitted it made a $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal “in concert” with Trump’s presidential campaign.
AMI said Chief Executive David Pecker met with Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and at least one other member of the campaign in August 2015 and offered to help with negative stories about Trump’s relationships with women by buying the rights to those stories, according to a document made public by prosecutors.
AMI’s admission may support statements made by Cohen, who was sentenced on Wednesday to three years in prison for his role in the payments, that they were made to influence the election in violation of campaign finance law, legal experts said.
Federal law requires that the contribution of “anything of value” to a campaign must be disclosed, and an individual donation cannot exceed $2,700.
Trump and his lawyers have argued the payments were a personal matter unrelated to the election.
The charges on which Cohen was sentenced include campaign finance law violations relating to his negotiation of payments to McDougal and another woman, adult film star Stormy Daniels. Cohen has said both payments were directed by Trump.
A spokesman for AMI declined to comment.
Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, stuck to Trump’s position on Wednesday, asserting to Reuters that the president never reimbursed AMI for its payment to McDougal.
Legal experts said the deal with AMI strengthened prosecutors’ position in any potential case against Trump, however.
Jens Ohlin, a professor at Cornell Law School, said the details about AMI’s intentions undermined Trump’s claim.
A New York-based appellate lawyer, Mark Zauderer, said the deal with AMI was “another arrow in the prosecutors’ quiver”.
Before the AMI deal was revealed, he said, the only known source of information about the payment was Cohen, whom the president has dismissed as a liar.
“Now it seems clear that a second source of evidence would be available to the prosecution,” he said.
McDougal has said she had a months-long sexual affair with Trump years before he took office, and that she sold her story for $150,000 to AMI, but it was never published.
Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York and Susan Heavey and Karen Freifeld in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Sonya Hepinstall
CONCORD, N.H. (Reuters) – A former Insys Therapeutics Inc sales representative now married to the drugmaker’s ex-CEO said on Wednesday she arranged to have a physician assistant in New Hampshire receive kickbacks to prescribe patients its addictive fentanyl spray.
Christopher Clough, a former physician assistant, arrives at the federal courthouse in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., December 12, 2018. REUTERS/Nate Raymond
The testimony came at the start of the trial in federal court in Concord, New Hampshire, of Christopher Clough, a physician assistant who prosecutors say accepted nearly $50,000 from Insys in exchange for prescribing its powerful opioid pain drug, Subsys.
The trial could provide a glimpse into some of the evidence prosecutors will use in next month’s trial of six former Insys executives and managers, including John Kapoor, a onetime billionaire who was the company’s founder and chairman.
Prosecutors say they conspired to pay kickbacks to doctors and others like Clough by paying them fees to participate in “sham” speaker programs ostensibly meant to educate medical professionals about the drug. Clough, 45, has pleaded not guilty.
Among Wednesday’s witnesses was Natalie Babich, the former Insys sales representative and wife of former Insys Chief Executive Michael Babich. The former CEO faces trial along with Kapoor. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
Natalie Babich testified pursuant to a cooperation agreement after pleading guilty to conspiring to pay kickbacks in 2017.
Babich said she had been seeking a “big fish” to write Subsys prescriptions when she met Clough in 2013. Immediately after he wrote his first prescription, she asked him if he would want to become a paid speaker, Babich testified.
“Right away he just said to me, ‘sure, I’ll be a speaker, but I want doctor money’,” she said.
Babich said she made clear to Clough that the speaker programs were a reward for prescribing Subsys, an under-the-tongue spray meant for cancer patients that contains fentanyl, an opioid 100 times stronger than morphine.
Clough frequently got paid for being a speaker at dinners with her with no attendees, Babich said.
Patrick Richard, Clough’s lawyer, in his opening statement said his client had no idea Insys was trying to bribe medical practitioners like himself, and that he prescribed Subsys to patients at his pain clinic believing it was a good treatment.
“This isn’t a case about individual greed but corporate greed,” he said.
In August, Insys said it had agreed to settle a related U.S. Justice Department probe for at least $150 million. It resolved a probe by New Hampshire’s attorney general focused on payments to Clough for $3.4 million in 2017.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Bill Berkrot
The distinctive black-and-white striped fish, also known as a striped beakfish or Ishi Dai in Japan, has been spotted several times in the kelp beds at Breakwater Cove near Monterey.
“It can’t be mistaken for any local fish,” said Nicholas Ta, who has been diving in the Monterey area almost daily for five years. “Other fish are kind of camouflaged and they kind of match the environment around them.”
The tsunami washed huge amounts of material out to sea and created debris fields that became habitats for marine life. When that debris got swept up in the currents that flow around the Pacific, the critters went along for the ride.
“These currents circle around and around and then just depending on local conditions the water may move on shore,” said Jonathan Geller, a scientist at California’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
In the last seven years a number of boats, docks and other items have washed up on the western coastline of North America.
“This fish stands out because it looks quite alien in our water and it’s definitely a species we haven’t seen here before this event,” Geller told CNN, adding that many of the other species found looked like they belong.
“Divers or people visiting the beach may not notice anything that looks unusual to the untrained eye,” he said. “But in fact, some of these creatures could have been part of this tsunami invasion event.”
California divers first spotted the fish four years ago
Ta first saw the fish in December 2014 but didn’t know what it was. His friend Dennis Lewis helped him identify the barred knifejaw and they looked for it on future dives.
Starr said the waters of Monterey Bay are about 9 degrees F (5 degrees C) cooler that what the fish are used to in Japan.
Fish from warmer areas can survive the cold, but they often can’t reproduce.
“People have seen multiple fish, it’s not just one, but they’re all the same size indicating that they’re not offspring,” Starr said. “We’re not seeing multiple different size classes, so the best guess right now is that these fish are all older fish that haven’t reproduced.”
Starr said that means they are not likely to become invasive and disrupt the Monterey Bay ecosystem.
Ta told CNN he’s only seen the fish swimming alone or schooled with some local opaleye. He doesn’t know if there are other banded knifejaws hanging around, but he’s hopeful. “I want to believe,” he said.