AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EST
‘Dirty deeds’: Ex-Trump lawyer Cohen gets 3 years in prison
NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s one-time fixer, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes that included arranging the payment of hush money to conceal his boss’ alleged sexual affairs, telling a judge that he agreed time and again to cover up Trump’s “dirty deeds” out of “blind loyalty.”
Separately, the legal and political peril surrounding Trump appeared to deepen when prosecutors announced that another major piece of the investigation had fallen into place: The parent company of the National Enquirer acknowledged dispensing some of the hush money in concert with the Trump campaign to fend off a scandal that could have damaged his bid for the White House.
Cohen, 52, shook his head slightly and closed his eyes as a judge pronounced his sentence for evading $1.4 million in taxes, lying about Trump’s business dealings in Russia and violating campaign-finance laws in buying the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal, who claimed they had sex with the candidate. Cohen and federal prosecutors have said the payments were made at Trump’s direction to influence the election.
“Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass,” said a choked-up Cohen, a lawyer who once boasted he would “take a bullet” for Trump. “My weakness can be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump, and I was weak for not having the strength to question and to refuse his demands.”
The twin developments represented a double dose of bad news for the president, who ignored reporters’ questions about Cohen during an appearance at the White House later in the day.
UK’s May wins no-confidence vote by MPs unhappy over Brexit
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a political crisis over her Brexit deal Wednesday, winning a no-confidence vote by Conservative lawmakers that would have ended her leadership of party and country.
But the margin of victory — 200 votes to 117 — leaves May a weakened leader who has lost the support of a big chunk of her party over her handling of Britain’s exit from the European Union. It also came at a steep price as she promised not to run for re-election in 2022. Britain’s Brexit problem, meanwhile, remains unsolved as May seeks changes to her EU divorce deal in order to make it more palatable to Parliament.
May said she was “pleased to have received the backing of my colleagues” but acknowledged that “a significant number” had voted against her in Wednesday evening’s secret ballot.
“I have listened to what they said,” May promised as she stood in a darkened Downing St. after what she called a “long and challenging day.”
The threat to May had been building as pro-Brexit Conservative lawmakers grew increasingly frustrated with the prime minister’s handling of Brexit. Many supporters of Brexit say May’s deal, a compromise that retains close economic ties with the EU, fails to deliver on the clean break with the bloc that they want.
Gunman from Christmas market attack in France still at large
STRASBOURG, France (AP) — Hundreds of security forces combed eastern France for a 29-year-old man with a long criminal record who shouted “God is great!” in Arabic and sprayed gunfire during a deadly rampage in Strasbourg’s famous Christmas market, officials said.
Tuesday night’s attack at the Christmas market in Strasbourg killed two people, left a third brain-dead and injured 12, and was a stark reminder to a nation wounded by previous assaults that terrorism remains a threat, even as anti-government protests roil the country.
National police distributed a photo of the wounded fugitive, identified as Cherif Chekatt, with the warning: “Individual dangerous, above all do not intervene.”
France raised its three-stage threat index to the highest level and bolstered troops around France.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told lawmakers that the French native, born in Strasbourg, had run-ins with police starting at age 10 and his first conviction at age 13.
Canada says entrepreneur feared detained in China
TORONTO (AP) — A second Canadian man is feared detained in China in what appears to be retaliation for Canada’s arrest of a top executive of telecommunications giant Huawei.
Canada’s Global Affairs department on Wednesday said Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who is one of the only Westerners to have met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, had gone missing in China. Spavor’s disappearance follows China’s detention of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing earlier this week.
“We have been unable to make contact (with Spavor) since he let us know he was being questioned by Chinese authorities,” Global Affairs spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we continue to raise this with the Chinese government.”
Spavor is a fluent Korean speaker with longstanding ties to the North through his company, Paektu Cultural Exchange. He was instrumental in bringing NBA player Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang in 2013 and has organized a number of tours and joint cultural projects with the North since then. His disappearance sparked immediate concern in the circle of people who travel to North Korea. Acquaintances said he was due in Seoul on Monday, but never showed up.
Canada’s announcement came hours after Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was worried another citizen had been detained in China following Monday’s arrest of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing.
A look at where the investigations related to Trump stand
A look at where the investigations related to President Donald Trump stand and what may lie ahead for him:
WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT?
Trump is facing criminal investigations in Washington and New York.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia and whether the president obstructed the investigation. Trump also plays a central role in a separate case in New York, where prosecutors have implicated him in a crime. They say Trump directed his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to make illegal hush money payments to two women as a way to quash potential sex scandals during the campaign.
APNewsBreak: Julian Castro moves toward 2020 White House run
SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Former Obama housing chief Julian Castro says he’s taking a step toward a possible White House campaign in 2020 by forming a presidential exploratory committee. The Texas Democrat tells The Associated Press that he will announce a decision Jan. 12.
The move Wednesday gives the 44-year-old former San Antonio mayor an early start to what’s shaping up as a crowded Democratic field without a clear front-runner to challenge President Donald Trump.
Castro indicated in an AP interview that his mind was all but made up.
“I know where I’m leaning, for sure,” said Castro, who has said for weeks that it was likely he would seek the nomination.
An exploratory committee usually is a formality before a candidate launches a presidential campaign. It legally allows potential candidates to begin raising money.
Attorneys for ex-Baylor student break silence over rape case
DALLAS (AP) — Attorneys for a former Baylor University student accused of rape have broken their silence after a judge allowed the former fraternity president to avoid serving jail time, attacking the ex-fraternity president’s accuser and saying she gave “inconsistent” statements to the prosecution.
Attorneys Mark Daniel and Tim Moore said that a statement in a Waco, Texas, court Monday by the woman who accused Jacob Walter Anderson was “riddled with distortions and misrepresentations.” They said Anderson and the woman were seen by many people “kissing passionately” at a fraternity party where she says the assault occurred. They also said her claim that she was choked was “absolutely contrary” to evidence.
Anderson’s attorneys had declined comment when Judge Ralph Strother accepted a plea agreement Monday allowing Anderson to avoid jail or be listed as a sex offender. The judge’s decision sparked outrage and on Tuesday Anderson’s attorneys spoke to the Waco Tribune-Herald to respond to what they called “significant misrepresentations” about the case.
The woman has sharply criticized both the judge and prosecutors, saying Anderson stole her power over her body.
The woman has said she was plied with a drink of punch at the fraternity party in 2016 and became disoriented. Anderson, the woman said, led her behind a tent and repeatedly raped her while she was gagged and choked. Anderson’s attorneys said no drugs were found in her system.
France’s Macron caught between protests, Strasbourg attack
PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to take back control of his nation after a month of protests that caused mayhem across the country — and now a new extremist attack that’s putting France on renewed terror alert.
Striving to show he’s responding to “yellow vest” protesters’ demands for tax relief, the French leader maintained his planned agenda Wednesday: He held his weekly Cabinet meeting and talks with big public and private companies, notably to encourage them to give a tax-free, year-end bonus to their employees.
At the same time, Macron’s office said he was staying constantly informed about the investigation into Tuesday’s Strasbourg attack and hunt for the gunman, still on the run.
Macron said “the terrorist threat is still at the core of our nation’s life,” in comments reported by government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.
“Public order must prevail in every place and every circumstance,” Macron added.
AP Interview: Jones says farmers scared by Trump’s tariffs
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Doug Jones said Alabama’s soybean farmers and automobile manufacturers are “scared to death” over President Donald Trump’s tariff wars, but he cautioned Democrats from spending too much time attacking the president as the party tries to win back heartland voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
In an Associated Press interview, the Democrat who won a stunning victory from the Deep South a year ago Wednesday said he doesn’t think there’s enough evidence to impeach the president, even as prosecutors allege Trump directed his lawyer to make illegal hush money payments. Democrats’ time would be better spent conducting oversight of the administration, he said, and working with the president to improve trade policies, the Affordable Care Act and other issues.
“I don’t think you have to just jump into that right now because it can not only politically backfire,” he said about impeachment. “There would be backlash. Our country is divided enough as it is. Democrats right now have an opportunity to try to get some things done.”
Thanks to Republican victories in midterm elections last month, Jones will soon be one of the few remaining Democratic senators from a deeply conservative state. That status has made him something of a guide for his party on how to win back Democrats who voted for Trump 2016.
As longtime friend of Joe Biden, Jones said he hopes the former vice president makes a run as the party’s pick for 2020.
UN chief calls for compromise, sacrifice at climate talks
KATOWICE, Poland (AP) — The United Nations secretary-general called on countries to make compromises in tackling global warming, amid concern that the U.N. conference on the issue could end without a substantial agreement.
In his second dramatic appeal at the talks in Poland in the space of 10 days, Antonio Guterres told ministers and senior diplomats from almost 200 countries they should consider the fate of future generations.
“This is the time for political compromises to be reached,” he said. “This means sacrifices, but it will benefit us all collectively.”
His call came as the two-week meeting in Katowice shifted from the technical to political phase, with ministers taking over negotiations.
Campaign groups warned of the risks of failure and accused powerful players such as the European Union of not pushing hard enough to reach an agreement.