I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Tuesday, April 17, 2018. 203 days until Election Day 2018. 931 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com.
Trump's personal lawyer reveals mystery client: Sean Hannity
President Donald Trump's worlds collided on Monday when his personal lawyer and longtime "fixer," Michael Cohen, was forced to reveal in a New York federal court that Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, one of Trump's most ardent cable news defenders, is also on his client list — with adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000 by Cohen in 2016 to stay silent about her allegations of an affair with Trump, watching from the public gallery.
Cohen was in court seeking to limit the ability of federal prosecutors to review documents seized in the FBI raid of his home, office, and hotel room last week; he requested that his attorneys, or a court-appointed special master, be allowed to review the documents to determine if some materials are protected by attorney-client privilege. Judge Kimba Wood also heard arguments from a lawyer representing President Trump, who also requested to be able to review the documents and decide what material is privileged.
The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, an entity of Trump's own Justice Department, which carried out the Cohen raid last week, argued against the Cohen and Trump's motions. "Just because he has a powerful client doesn't mean [Cohen] should get special treatment," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas McKay said to the judge.
The biggest revelation to emerge from the hearing came when the judge forced Cohen's legal team to divulge his client list. At first, his lawyers said he had done legal work for only three clients in the past year and a half: Trump, former Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman Elliott Broidy, and a mystery third client they declined to name. When pressured to name the third client, Cohen's lawyers revealed it was Sean Hannity of Fox News, a nightly defender of the president's who also doubles as an informal adviser.
"Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter," Hannity said on Twitter after the court hearing. "I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective." He continued: "I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third party."
According to the Washington Post, Judge Wood signaled that she is unlikely to grant Trump's request that he be allowed to determine which documents are privileged, but she did not dismiss Cohen's request outright. Although she did not make a decision, the judge said she was considering the appointment of a special master, a court-appointed outside lawyer who would be allowed to review the seized documents. However, Wood also stood firm in her trust of the prosecutors.
"I have faith in the Southern District U.S. Attorney's Office that their integrity is unimpeachable," she said.
Cohen, who has spent over a decade as one of Trump's closest confidants, is currently under criminal investigation, the prosecutors confirmed on Friday. According to the New York Times, the president's advisers have concluded that the Cohen probe — which has already led to the seizure of documents and recordings that could include communications about "hush agreements" Cohen set up with alleged Trump mistresses — "poses a greater and more imminent threat" to Trump than special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
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President Trump on Monday "put the brakes on a preliminary plan to impose additional economic sanctions on Russia," according to the Washington Post, walking back an announcement by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. On CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Haley had promised that new Russian sanctions would be announced the next day by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. However, The Post reports, Trump told his national security team later Sunday that "he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them."
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded on Monday: "We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future."
--- Recommended read: The Post's report from Sunday on Trump's frustration about his administration's most recent move against the Kremlin, the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats. "The president instinctually opposes many of the punitive measures pushed by his Cabinet that have crippled his ability to forge a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin," the report said.
--- Related: The sanctions reversal was the second time in two days that Trump succeeded in rolling back a decision that his administration had already announced — and both situations have ties to Haley. On Sunday, after Axios reported that Trump was frustrated about Vice President Mike Pence tapping Haley's deputy Jon Lerner (who worked against Trump in the 2016 GOP primaries) as his national security adviser, the White House announced that Lerner would not be taking the position in Pence's office after all.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office last year violated federal spending laws, the Government Accountability Office said Monday. In a letter to lawmakers, the GAO's general counsel said that the installation violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, which requires agencies to notify Congress before spending more than $5,000 on furnishing a presidential appointee's office.
The GAO also concluded that Pruitt violated the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from incurring spending that is not "legally available."
--- Pruitt is just one of multiple Trump Administration officials being investigated for luxurious spending: the Interior Department's inspector general released a report on Monday determining that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's travel "generally followed relevant law, policy, rules, and regulations," but said a $12,375 chartered flight he took from Las Vegas to Montana "could have been avoided."
President and First Lady Trump welcome Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife to Mar-a-Lago today for a two-day diplomatic summit. The president and Prime Minister will hold a 1:1 bilateral meeting, followed by a restricted bilateral meeting. The two couples will have dinner together tonight.
The Senate is set to consider the nomination of Carlos Muniz to be general counsel of the Education Department today.The Senate may also begin consideration of a measure that would repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's indirect auto lending and leveraged lending rules.
Marking Tax Day, the House is scheduled to vote on several tax-related bills making changes to the IRS' contacts with taxpayers.
*All times Eastern