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By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump said Monday that he didn’t think a federal judge should afford his former longtime attorney Michael Cohen any leniency, saying that Cohen should serve a “full and complete” prison sentence.

The president tweeted his thoughts in response to reports that Cohen was hoping to avoid any time behind bars after pleading guilty in federal court last week to a new charge brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On Thursday, Cohen pleaded guilty to a single count of making false statements to Congress about a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, marking the first time that Trump and his private business dealings were named in open court as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign.

Mueller wrote in a charging document that Cohen lied to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to minimize links between the president and the Moscow project, and to give the false impression that the project had ended before the Iowa caucuses in February 2016. In fact, the document states, Cohen briefed “Individual 1,” who he identified in open court on Thursday as Trump, about the status and progress of the Moscow project “on more than the three occasions Cohen claimed” to the Senate committee, in addition to briefing the president’s family members within the Trump Organization.

In addition, Cohen admitted, he continued to pursue Russian approval for Trump’s Moscow project as late as June 2016. Cohen was a vice president of the Trump Organization at the time.

In a sentencing document filed Friday, Cohen’s attorneys asked U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley to spare him prison time for both his guilty plea last week, and for the separate guilty plea he entered in August in which he admitted to eight felony counts, including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

The president’s mention of “all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things” in his tweet Monday seemed to be a reference to that original August plea. Many of the counts, including tax evasion and bank fraud, were not connected to the president.

However, the campaign finance violations Cohen pleaded guilty to in August were related to hush-money payments made to women during the 2016 campaign. Cohen said in open court at the time that he made the payments “at the direction of a candidate” for president, meaning Trump.

The payments, Cohen told the court, were made for the “principal purpose of influencing” the outcome of the election.

Trump has spent the past few days pushing back on his former attorney’s most recent guilty plea, claiming his efforts to build a Trump Tower in Russia during his campaign for president were “very legal” and “very cool.”

He also derided Cohen as a “weak person” who is “lying about a project that everybody knew about” in order to get a reduced sentence.

“I was running my business while I was campaigning,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

Top Democrats raised alarms about the new timeline surrounding Trump’s Russian real estate dealings, with Jerry Nadler, the likely incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the business negotiations gave Russia “leverage” over Trump.

“Well, whether it was legal or not remains to be seen,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the likely incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “It certainly wasn’t very cool. More than that, it was compromising of our country.”

Cohen’s plea agreement indicated that he is cooperating with Mueller’s office. The attorney first formally offered information to Mueller in early August and went on to speak with the special counsel’s office six additional times.

A source familiar with Cohen’s thinking told NBC News last week that Trump’s former fixer is “happy to be cooperating with Mueller” and “has no personal animus toward President Trump.”

However, the source said Cohen believes Trump “has changed” since being elected president.

In August, prosecutors recommended a sentence of 46 to 63 months for Cohen. It is not yet clear whether they will decrease that recommendation following Cohen’s most recent guilty plea.

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Federal judge blocks Mississippi abortion ban



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By Charlie Gile and Dartunorro Clark

A federal judge on Friday issued a preliminary injunction blocking Mississippi’s fetal heartbeat anti-abortion law from going into effect, saying it infringes on women’s health care rights.

“Here we go again. Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability,” Judge Carlton Reeves wrote in his order.

“By banning abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, SB 226 prevents a woman’s free choice, which is central to personal dignity and autonomy,” he continued.

The Mississippi ban prohibited abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, or around six weeks, which is before many women might know they are pregnant. Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law in March.

The lawsuit was filed by the Jackson Women’s Health Organization against Thomas Dobbs, the state health officer of Mississippi.

Reeves ruled last year that Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban was unconstitutional, The Associated Press reported. Mississippi is appealing that ruling, and is likely to appeal this one, as well.

The judge’s ruling comes as dozens of conservative states across the country have passed or proposed bills that would place strict limitations on abortion. Anti-abortion advocates have said that they hope the bills, which have prompted swift legal challenges, will ultimately lead to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide.

Under the Mississippi law, doctors could have their medical licenses revoked if they perform the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Though the law does provide an exception if the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, it does not provide an exception in cases of rape or incest.

The Republican governors of Kentucky, Ohio and Georgia have signed similar bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected. On Friday, Missouri’s Republican Gov. Mike L. Parson signed legislation banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy with an exception for medical emergencies, but not for rape or incest.

Also on Friday, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit over Alabama’s near-total abortion ban that makes performing an abortion a felony with little to no exceptions. The law, signed by GOP Gov. Kay Ivey on May 15, is the most restrictive in the nation.

“The Alabama Legislature has been pushing abortion care further and further out of reach for years with medically unnecessary and politically-motivated restrictions, and this extreme abortion ban shows us just how far they’ll go to push their anti-abortion agenda,” Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project attorney, said in a press release.

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Theresa May NOT DONE YET: Prime Minister could accept PEERAGE and sit in House of Lords



THERESA May could become the first former prime minister to take a seat in the House of Lords since Margaret Thatcher, according to some Tory MPs.

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Trump heads to Japan with Sumo wrestling and golf on the agenda



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 / Updated 

By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Under the threat of potentially devastating U.S. tariffs on autos, Japan is ready to roll out the newest phase of its charm offensive targeting President Donald Trump as it welcomes him on a state visit tailor-made to his whims and ego.

Offering high honors, golf and the chance to present a “Trump Cup” at a sumo wrestling championship, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, arguably Trump’s closest friend on the world stage, will continue a years-long campaign that so far appears to have spared Japan from far more debilitating U.S. actions.

The stakes are high. U.S. tariffs could cripple Japan’s auto industry, while North Korea remains a destabilizing threat in the region. But this trip, the first of two Trump is expected to make to Japan in the next six weeks, is more of social call meant to highlight the alliance between the countries and the friendship between their leaders.

“In the world of Donald Trump, terrible things can happen if you’re an ally, but no major blows have landed on Japan,” said Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Trump, who departed Washington for Tokyo on Friday, has the honor of being the first head of state invited to meet Emperor Naruhito since he assumed power May 1 after his father stepped down, the first abdication in about two centuries. Naruhito will welcome Trump to the Imperial Palace on Monday for a meeting and banquet in his honor.

“With all the countries of the world, I’m the guest of honor at the biggest event that they’ve had in over 200 years,” Trump said Thursday.

Abe will host Trump on Sunday for a round of golf and take the president to a sumo wrestling match, a sport Trump said he finds “fascinating.” Trump is eager to present the winner with a U.S.-made trophy.

It’s all part of a kindness campaign aimed at encouraging Trump to alleviate trade pressures, said Riley Walters, a policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, who said the personal relationship between Trump and Abe is probably the best of any two world leaders.

Abe made a strategic decision before Trump was elected to focus on his relationship with the U.S. The courtship began when Abe rushed to New York two weeks after the November 2016 election to meet the president-elect at Trump Tower. Last month, Abe and his wife, Akie, celebrated first lady Melania Trump’s birthday over a couples’ dinner at the White House.

Trump plans to return to Japan for a summit of leading rich and developing nations in Osaka in late June.

Behind the smiles and personal friendship, however, lurks deep uneasiness over Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Japanese autos and auto parts on national security grounds, a move that would be far more devastating to the Japanese economy than earlier tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Trump recently agreed to a six-month delay, enough time to carry Abe past July’s Japanese parliamentary elections.

“On the surface, it’s all going to be a display of warmth, friendship, hospitality,” said Mireya Solis, a senior fellow at the Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies. But, she said, “there’s an undercurrent of awkwardness and concern about what the future might hold. … We’re coming to a decisive moment. This is, I think, the moment of truth.”

Also at issue is the lingering threat of North Korea, which has resumed missile testing and recently fired a series of short-range projectiles that U.S. officials, including Trump, have tried to downplay despite an agreement by North Korea to hold off on further testing.

“The moratorium was focused, very focused, on intercontinental missile systems, the ones that threaten the United States,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a recent television interview. That raised alarm bells in Japan, where short-range missiles pose a serious threat.

“That is not an acceptable American position for Japan,” said Green.

Japan, which relies on the U.S. for its defense, has also been largely cut out of negotiations with North Korea, even as Kim Jong Un has met with other leaders in the region, including China’s Xi Jinping. That leaves Abe to rely on the U.S. as an intermediary, said Sheila Smith, an expert on Japanese politics and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Abe has to rely on Trump to advocate,” she said. Abe recently offered to meet Kim without preconditions in an effort to restore diplomatic ties.

With Trump’s relations with the leaders of the U.K., Germany, Canada and other allies strained, Abe has worked more than any other leader to try to keep Trump engaged with international institutions, Green said, adding that it is critical for Japan’s survival.

And while leaders across Europe and elsewhere might take heat for cozying up to Trump, analysts say Japanese voters see Trump more as a curiosity and understand the pragmatic importance of good relations, which they say has paid off for Abe.

Indeed, while Trump has rejected Abe’s invitations to re-join a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal and keeps the threat of tariffs in place, Trump walked away from his last meeting with Kim without a deal, which some had feared would include a declaration to end the Korean war and a vow to pull U.S. troops from the peninsula.

“I would argue that Abe has been so good at maintaining the relationship that maybe things could be worse,” Walters said.

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