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Week In The News: Cohen, Manafort, G-20, Yemen, Russia-Ukraine Clash

Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves Federal court, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves Federal court, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, in New York. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

With David Folkenflik

Cohen pleads guilty. Deep job cuts at GM. Lies and Paul Manafort. Russia and Ukraine skirmishes at sea. The roundtable swims in choppy waters.


Kimberly Atkins, Washington bureau chief for the Boston Herald. (@KimberlyEAtkins)

Kathy Gilsinan, senior editor covering foreign affairs at The Atlantic. (@kgilsinan)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst. (@JackBeattyNPR)

From The Reading List

CNN: “Michael Cohen pleads guilty, says he lied about Trump’s knowledge of Moscow project” — “President Donald Trump spoke with Michael Cohen more extensively about the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow than Cohen previously told Congress, Cohen admitted in federal court Thursday.

“Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty Thursday to making false statements to Congress about the Russia investigation in a charge brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Cohen had previously said talks about the Moscow project had ended in January 2016 just prior to the Iowa caucuses.

“The Cohen revelations are potentially significant because they appear to show that Trump was engaged in business dealings with Russia in the midst of a campaign in which Moscow interfered to help elect him.

“It could also intersect with other information that Mueller knows to create political and legal jeopardy for the President.”

Boston Herald: “Analysis: White House, Senate bigs dismiss Mueller firing talk” — “The White House and the Senate’s top Republican dismissed speculation that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation may be in peril — or that President Trump may be pondering a pardon for his former top campaign aide — after an angry Twitter rant from the president yesterday.

“The tirade of tweets, denouncing the Mueller probe as a ‘Phony Witch Hunt’ that has produced ‘nothing but ruined lives,’ came after Mueller revoked Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s plea deal for lying to investigators.

“‘Wait until it comes out how horribly & viciously they are treating people, ruining lives for them refusing to lie,’ Trump tweeted — raising speculation that Manafort, who could spend the rest of his life in prison without a deal, is seeking a pardon and Trump is considering it. ‘Mueller is a conflicted prosecutor gone rogue.’

“Trump’s online outburst caused Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona to renew his call for legislation protecting the Mueller probe from being scuttled by Trump or acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who had been critical of the investigation in news interviews before he was tapped to temporarily fill the post vacated by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

The Atlantic: “The Khashoggi Tape and the Limits of ‘Raw’ Intelligence” — “There’s an especially gruesome clue in a notorious international murder case. The killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the widespread suspicion that the Saudi crown prince himself directed it, have roiled U.S.-Saudi relations and politics in the United States, where the Senate is challenging the Trump administration to take stronger measures against the Saudis. And the hit was, reportedly, all caught on tape.

“By President Donald Trump’s account, the tape records a “very violent, very vicious, and very terrible” incident—and it’s one the president told Fox News he hasn’t heard and doesn’t want to hear. His national-security adviser, John Bolton, echoed that this week, prompting bafflement at a press briefing where journalists pressed him on why he wouldn’t want to hear the raw intelligence about one of the major national-security issues confronting the United States.

“But why should he? It’s not necessarily typical for the president or the national-security adviser to consume that much raw intelligence. In fact, one of the major controversies of the Iraq War era was precisely that high officials were seeking raw intelligence to form their own conclusions about the connection between Saddam Hussein’s regime and al-Qaeda.”

New York Times: “Senators, Furious Over Khashoggi Killing, Spurn President on War in Yemen” — “Furious over being denied a C.I.A. briefing on the killing of a Saudi journalist, senators from both parties spurned the Trump administration on Wednesday with a stinging vote to consider ending American military support for the Saudi-backed war in Yemen.

“The Senate voted 63 to 37 to bring to the floor a measure to limit presidential war powers in Yemen. It was the strongest signal yet that Republican and Democratic senators alike remain vehemently skeptical of the administration’s insistence that the Saudi crown prince cannot, with certainty, be blamed for the death of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“While the vote showed widespread disapproval of the administration’s stance, it did not necessarily indicate that the measure would ultimately be approved.”

NPR: “Tensions With China, Putin Meeting To Dominate Trump’s G-20 Trip” — “President Trump leaves Thursday for the G-20 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a packed schedule ahead of him and a number of looming questions that could determine whether the trip is a success or a mess.

“Traditionally these big international meetings have culminated with a communique, agreed to by all or most of the nations in attendance. But Trump isn’t a fan of multilateral, well, anything. So, his emphasis will be on a series of bilateral meetings taking place on the sidelines of the gathering.

“His dance card is still in flux, but the White House says the president plans to meet with the leaders of Argentina, South Korea, Turkey, Japan, Germany, India and Russia. And Trump will close out the trip with a working dinner with China’s President Xi Jinping.”

Al Jazeera: “Explainer: Ukraine-Russia dispute over territorial waters” — “Russia has seized three Ukrainian military vessels after they attempted to pass through the Kerch Strait off the coast of Crimea, Ukraine’s peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014.

“Ukraine says the move violated the 2003 agreement between the two nations on treating the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait as shared waters without any restrictions.

“The Kremlin claimed the Ukrainian ships entered Moscow’s territorial waters without submitting the correct transit applications that Russia introduced in recent months to “ensure safe navigation”.

“As tension escalated, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday signed an act imposing martial law for 30 days in regions bordering Russia, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

“Amid a threat of ‘full-scale war’, Western governments have rallied behind Kiev, accusing Russia of illegally blocking access to the Sea of Azov and using force without justification.”

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