Donald Trump Jr signed Stormy Daniels check, Michael Cohen to tell Congress

Donald Trump’s former lawyer will tell Congress on Wednesday that the president’s eldest son signed a check to fund illegal hush money payments to a pornographic actor, potentially placing Donald Trump Jr in legal peril.

Michael Cohen is preparing to show a House committee a check signed by Trump Jr reimbursing Cohen for payments to Stormy Daniels, who alleged she had an affair with Trump, according to a source familiar with Cohen’s plans.

Cohen, who spent a decade as Trump’s enforcer, also intends to say that Trump had advance knowledge of plans by WikiLeaks to release stolen Democratic emails and of a meeting his son held with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.

A copy of Cohen’s prepared remarks to the House oversight committee was obtained by the Guardian. He declared his former boss was a racist, a conman and a cheat.

The finding that Donald Jr was directly involved in the scheme to pay off Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, could mean the president’s son faces legal jeopardy. Federal prosecutors in New York, who have had copies of the checks and other records for months, say the payments violated campaign finance laws.

Cohen is the first Trump associate to publicly allege that the president had inside information about WikiLeaks releasing Democratic emails, which US intelligence agencies say were hacked by Russian operatives working to help Trump’s campaign.

Trump received the information on WikiLeaks in the days before the Democratic party convention July 2016 in a telephone call from Roger Stone, his longtime friend and adviser, according to Cohen, who said the call was placed on speakerphone.

“Mr Stone told Mr Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr Assange told Mr Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great.’”

Trump has denied knowing about the hacking of Democratic emails or of plans for their release. Stone previously claimed to have been in touch with Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, but now says that he was lying about this.

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Stone, whose public statements have been restricted by a judge’s gag order, said on Wednesday: “Mr Cohen’s statement is untrue.”

Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is concluding a two-year investigation into any links or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is accused of sharing polling data with an alleged Russian intelligence operative. Trump has dismissed Mueller’s inquiry as a “witch hunt”.

Cohen also said that he recalled Donald Trump Jr, the president’s eldest son, telling his father “in a low voice” in early June 2016: “The meeting is all set.” Cohen claims this was a reference to Donald Jr’s now-infamous gathering with several Russians, including a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, at Trump Tower that month.

“I remember Mr Trump saying, ‘OK good … let me know,” Cohen said in his prepared remarks. He said Trump had previously complained that Donald Jr “had the worst judgment of anyone in the world” and would not have set up a meeting of such significance without clearing it with his father.

Trump told Mueller in a series of written answers last year that he did not discuss WikiLeaks with Stone and did not know of the Trump Tower meeting in advance, according to CNN.

Cohen was preparing for a marathon hearing of the oversight committee, which has 42 members. Republicans keen to defend the president were expected to attack his credibility. Cohen pleaded guilty to crimes including lying to Congress and is scheduled to go to prison in May to begin a three-year sentence.

His prepared remarks painted a scathing picture of a mobster-like president, who denounced Cohen as a “rat” for turning on his former boss. Cohen recalled being dispatched by Trump to shortchange suppliers and to threaten his schools that they must not release his student grades.

Describing his testimony as a step on “path of redemption”, Cohen apologized to Congress for his past lies about the details of Trump’s plans in 2016 to build a tower in Moscow. He also said sorry to the country for “working to hide from you the truth about Mr Trump when you needed it most”.

Cohen described being intoxicated by Trump’s charisma in the early days of their work together. Now, he said, he understood Trump was an unkind, disloyal man in whom “the bad far outweighs the good’”.

Trump said black people were “too stupid” to vote for him and remarked during a drive through a poor area of Chicago that “only black people could live that way,” according to Cohen. “He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole’,” Cohen said.

Cohen said he was asked during the 2016 campaign to handle negative press around Trump’s avoidance of the Vietnam war draft by claiming he had bone spurs on a foot. “You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam,” Cohen quoted Trump as saying.

He also planned to produce false financial statements Trump provided to Deutsche Bank in pursuit of loans. Cohen said Trump inflated his wealth to secure a place on rich lists and artificially reduced it to avoid paying tax.

The prepared remarks described a remarkable scheme in which Trump directed Cohen to find a “straw bidder” to ensure a portrait of Trump fetched the highest price in a charity auction in 2013. Once the fake buyer secured the painting for $60,000, Trump paid for it out of his charitable foundation, according to Cohen.

Trump later boasted on Twitter that his portrait had attracted the top price.

  • Published in World

US Congress Rejects Trump's Warmongering, Won't Support Military Intervention in Venezuela

Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel made the comments at the opening of a hearing on Venezuela.

Congress will not support U.S. military intervention in Venezuela despite hints by President Donald Trump that such action had not been ruled out, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Wednesday.

RELATED: Venezuela Confronts US-backed Right-wing Coup

"I do worry about the president's saber rattling, his hints that U.S. military intervention remains an option. I want to make clear to our witnesses and to anyone else watching: U.S. military intervention is not an option," U.S. Representative Eliot Engel said at the opening of a hearing the OPEC nation.

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has to approve foreign military action. Engel also warned about the possible effects on the Venezuelan people of U.S. sanctions on state oil company PDVSA. The United States in January imposed sanctions aimed at limiting President Nicolas Maduro's access to oil revenue.

"I appreciate the need to squeeze Maduro," Engel said. "But the White House must think through the potential repercussions that these sanctions could have on the Venezuelan people if Maduro does not leave office in the coming weeks."

Testifying at the hearing, Trump's pick to lead U.S. efforts on Venezuela, former U.S. diplomat and convicted war criminal Elliott Abrams, said Washington would keep up pressure on Maduro and his inner circle by "a variety of means."

"But we will also provide off-ramps to those who will do what is right for the Venezuelan people," he said.

Abrams drew intermittent protests at the start of the hearing. "You are a convicted criminal!" one man shouted before being escorted out of the room.

Abrams, assistant secretary of state during the administration of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, was convicted in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal. He was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush.

The United States and its right-wing allies in Latin America have come out in support of a right-wing coup attempt against the Venezuelan government of socialist President Nicolas Maduro after they supported a decision by opposition lawmaker, named Juan Guaido, to declare himself an “interim president” of Venezuela on Jan. 23 in violation of the country’s constitution.

In return, Maduro has repeatedly called for the restoration of talks between his government and the opposition in order to maintain peace and avoid a U.S.-backed coup, or even military intervention by the United States in favor of removing him and placing an unelected right-wing government. 

Guiado and his allies Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his National Security advisor have so far responded to such calls by escalation and rejection of any dialogue. They continue to call for the military to intervene, while sources in the United States have revealed that Trump is “seriously considering” military intervention into Venezuela if Maduro does not step down.

To further the pressure, the United States imposed harsh economic sanction on the Venezuelan oil industry and its national oil company, while also blocking the bank accounts of the Venezuelan state in the United States, vowing to only remove such restrictions when Guiado achieves control of the state institutions.

  • Published in World

US Congress Announces Deal to Prevent Government Shutdown

The deal will not allow President Trump to get away with the six billion + he originally requested for his reckless and inhumane border wall, but it will make some concessions to Republicans.

The U.S. Congress announced on Monday a ‘tentative’ deal to avert President Donald Trump’s new dangerous government shutdown, scheduled for Friday, and to avoid leaving thousands of public workers once again without pay.

RELATED: California Rejects Trump's 'Political Theater', Announces Pull Out of National Guard

The deal will not allow President Trump to get away with the six billion + he originally requested for his reckless and inhumane border wall, but it will make some concessions to Republicans hoping to strengthen immigration controls.

Lawmakers returned to a point in the talks prior to the Democrats demand for limiting immigrant detentions, and effectively dropped some of them in order to compromise with Republicans.

“What brought us back together I thought, tonight, was we didn’t want that to happen,” said senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) who is the Republican leading the talks.

Republicans have seen some blow back from the Trump-induced government shutdown which already cost the United States US$3B with 800,000 federal employees working 35 days without pay.

Lawmakers are calling it “an agreement in principle,” which includes US$1.375 billion for a type of fencing which is similar to Trump’s desired steel fence, spanning a total of approximately 55 miles—nine miles shy of the President’s request— along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, it is not clear if these resources will be used to expand the border fencing or to fortify what already exists.

For their part, Democrats sacrificed their petition to restrict the number of migrants who can be detained by the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE). It would also appear to some Republicans that the funding will suffice to reach the president’s requested 52,000 beds, more than the number negotiated during the talks, according to Politico.

In context, President Trump threw the federal government—and the lives of thousands of workers and provision of services—into disarray over his unjustified request for a border wall expanding 200 miles at a cost of approximately US$6B.

He received only a portion of that after months of wrestling with Democrats and putting the lives of federal workers in suspense.

  • Published in World

US vies to become anti-doping policeman of the world after criminalizing it

A new bill in the US Congress will make doping in international sports a crime, which the US law would prosecute under its own jurisdiction. The act is clearly designed to punish Russia, but may affect many others.

The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, named after the controversial former head of the Moscow anti-doping lab, whose claims became the basis of sweeping doping sanctions against Russia, was submitted to both chambers of the US Congress last week.

Once adopted into law, it will make doping in international sports a criminal offense, a form of fraud, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $1 million. It will also allow civil lawsuits to be filed in US courts against people and organizations involved. Restitution of damages may be filed by American athletes over losing prize money and by event sponsors.

Also on rt.com ‘Rodchenkov's evidence is hearsay with limited probative value’ – CAS 

The bill’s sponsors and backers, like Travis Tygart, the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), don’t hide the fact that it’s aimed first and foremost at Russia. They believe international organizations, like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have failed to punish Russia for alleged doping violations exposed by Rodchenkov. WADA is currently in the process of reinstating the disgraced Russian Anti-Doping Agency after a reform while the IOC is pushing for normalization of Russia’s involvement in international sports.

“To remain a ‘city on a hill’, America must hold the crooked and corrupt accountable whenever we can. That means forcefully confronting Russia’s use of corruption as a tool of foreign policy,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D- RI), one of the sponsors of the Senate’s version of the bill and ardent Russiagate crusader since the election of Donald Trump.

The US legislation will apply retroactively, opening a way to sue Moscow and Russian officials accused of involvement in doping for millions of dollars in damages. Some may even get a jail term, if the US gets a chance to have them arrested and extradited. It sets the statute of limitations as seven years for criminal action and 10 years for civil lawsuits, with a potential for extension if an extradition is pending.

Also on rt.com ‘Look after your own backyard’ – WADA chief hits back at US critics amid White House summit row 

The IOC criticized the bill when it was first proposed in July, saying the US should first clean its own house before claiming the right to serve as the doping watchman of the world.

“We very much appreciate and welcome moves in the United States to step up the fight against doping and we assume that the very worrying existing challenges with some of the professional leagues in the United States will be addressed as a matter of urgency,” an IOC spokesman told sports news site, insidethegames, at the time. “Especially since this has become extremely obvious again in the last report of USADA which details the low level of testing currently taking place in these professional leagues.”

USADA has been criticized for conducting few or even no tests of the country’s professional basketball, football and baseball players, relying on the leagues to do the testing.

It is a matter of concern that the intention of the proposed legislation is to put athletes from all 206 National Olympic Committees from around the world who take part in international competition under the criminal code of US law.

The US has a habit of imposing its criminal jurisdiction as wide as possible and treating its own court system as inherently superior to those of other nations. It also has a tendency of putting political pressure on other nations, to take over custody of people accused of crimes in the US.

  • Published in World

U.S.-Democracy: How does it work?

Nathan Larson is a self-confessed pedophile and white supremacist. And he’s currently running for Congress in Virginia.

Once again facts show how political system works in the United States. Last Tuesday, some sources described it unquestionably.

For example, ahead of the next primary elections that take place in eight states of the country, where the candidates of both parties, as well as alleged independent ones, will be nominated.

A candidate who calls himself independent, Nathan Larson, during an interview with Huffington Post daily said:

“A lot of people are tired of political correctness and being restricted by it. People prefer an outsider who has nothing to lose and is willing to say what’s on a lot of people’s minds.”

Larson, 37, is running for a congressional seat in Virginia.

Ten years ago, he ran for the House of Delegates but failed, and later he was sent to jail in 2009 for threatening to kill the then President Barack Obama.

However, this was not his biggest sin, he, father of a daughter, admitted before the press that he was the main responsible of several events via the Internet geared at advising pedophiles.  

According to the sources, the Virginia congressional candidate considers that the word pedophile is “a tag”, plays down importance to violence and dares to defend the authority of a man to beat his wife.

Another example is that of Don Blankenship, independent too, who is getting into politics now, after serving a year in prison for the death of 29 workers in 2010, because of the explosion of a coal mine, owned by the company that he managed.

Blakenship, self-defined “more Trumpist than Trump”, rejects to have a low profile while running for US Senate from West Virginia and seeks fame with statements that have been deemed disrespectful and even racist.

This controversial candidate, 68, dismissed his interest for joining the Republican Party, when he showed an electoral video accusing Mitch McConnell, its majority leader, of being a cocaine addict and benefiting himself from the money of the “Chinese family” of his wife, Elaine Chao.

Add to this scenario, Rep. Patrick Little, who previously complained of being expelled from the convention of his party held in San Diego (California) for rejecting to “serve the leadership of Israel.”

Little is self-defined as a “defender of white people”, although his possibilities for success are scarce.

This is a tight synthesis on the world of politics in the United States, country that its propaganda sells as the most democratic country on Earth,

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Leahy leads congressional delegation to Cuba

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) heads a bicameral congressional delegation that is visiting Cuba this week, during the congressional recess.

Leahy for two decades has been centrally involved in efforts to replace the failed 50-year-old U.S. Cuba policy of isolation with a new path toward normalization. Leahy is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and also serves as the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations, which oversees the State Department’s budget. Other congressional leaders who accompany Leahy are two other senators and three members of the House of Representatives.

The purpose of the visit is to meet with U.S. and Cuban officials, officials of other governments, and Cubans in the emerging private sector to discuss: the presidential transition in Cuba; U.S. and Cuban investigations of health incidents involving U.S. government personnel in Cuba; cooperation on maritime security, search-and-rescue, narcotics and human trafficking, and migration issues; the impact of the withdrawal of U.S. Embassy and Cuban Embassy personnel and of revised Treasury Department regulations on U.S.-Cuban relations; and opportunities for public health, law enforcement, scientific, environmental, commercial, educational, cultural, and other engagement with Cubans.

The delegation departed the United States on Saturday, Feb. 17, and return on Wednesday, Feb. 21.

  • Published in Cuba

USA: The “almighty” Trump?

A few days ago, the billionaire stated that being president is harder than he thought, and reality endorses his opinion.

Suffix to tell, among many, two close examples to demonstrate it.

Attorneys General Brian Frosh of Maryland and Karl Racine of the District of Columbia sued him for accepting money from foreign governments.

Those incomes came from businesses still linked to the head of the White House.

During a press conference in Washington, both prosecutors stated that Trump “flagrantly violated constitutional provisions against money influence from domestic or foreign interests.

Thus wrote El Nuevo Herald on Monday, those officials consider that never before a president of the U.S. had kept such big links with economic interests of the country.

Something that according to the newspaper from Florida “jeopardizes democracy”.

Frosh, Maryland Attorney General, assured he trusts that tribunals or the Supreme Court set a precedent ordering Trump to disassociate from his businesses.

Attorneys generals manage to say he is violating clauses of the federal Constitution.

Reason? Because governments like Saudi Arabia “sweeten” their relations with the White House by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in president’s facilities, such as the Trump International Hotel.

If this were not enough, also on Monday, Spanish news agency EFE reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Atlantastruck the head of state another sensitive blow.

What was it about? It refused to reinstate the ban encouraged by Trump last March on the entry into US territory of refugees and citizens from 6 mostly-Muslim nations.

So, the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit benefits those who reject the move and imposes further pressure on the Supreme Court.

In the decision, which text comprises 86 pages, the judges state:

“Immigration, even for a President is not an individual show. The president’s authority is subject to certain statuary and constitutional restrictions”.

“We conclude that the president, in issuing this executive order, exceeded the scope of the authority delegated to him by Congress”.

So, the almighty businessman from New York has to yield to certain realities of the very complex world around.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

Obama Faces New Hindrance to Close Guantanamo Prison

The plan by US President Barack Obama to close the military prison at the naval base in Guantanamo is today facing a new obstacle after the Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, rejected the President''s proposal.

According to government officials who prefer to remain anonymous, the Attorney General's office objects to a measure that would allow convicts to declare themselves guilty through a video conference and would allow them to serve their sentences in other countries, without ever setting foot on US soil.

Lynch explained that these proposals by the White House would violate established rules on criminal justice procedures.

If they manage to reduce the population at the prison at Guantanamo naval base, a military facility set up in Cuba's southeastern region against the will of the Cuban Government and people, Obama would keep his political promise of closing the prison before finishing his second term of office.

A recent editorial published by the newspaper 'The New York Times' highlighted that the failure to close the prison in Guantanamo was a shameful stain on the US Congress, which has hindered all efforts to close it.

The prison, where 80 detainees remain, has ruined the image of the United States as champion of human rights and is a deplorable example to other governments inclined to violate international law.

Under the title of 'The Broken Promise to Close Guantanamo' the editorial quotes Thomas Pickering, a US veteran diplomat, who recently denounced the severe treatment and even brutal procedures, such as the force feeding of the detainees, who are kept in stainless-steel cells in solitary confinement.

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