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Robert Mueller investigating payments to Michael Cohen, Swiss drug giant says

Novartis confirms it paid Trump’s lawyer’s company $1.2m – significantly more than was initially disclosed

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Robert Mueller investigating payments to Michael Cohen, Swiss drug giant says” was written by Jon Swaine in New York, for theguardian.com on Thursday 10th May 2018 01.10 UTC

Robert Mueller, the special counsel, has been investigating payments made by corporations to Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, two of Cohen’s clients said on Wednesday.

AT&T and the Swiss pharmaceuticals company Novartis both said they were contacted by Mueller’s office in November last year, as Novartis confirmed it had paid Cohen .2m – significantly more than was initially disclosed.

“Novartis cooperated fully with the special counsel’s office and provided all the information requested,” the company said in a statement. AT&T said in a statement: “We cooperated fully, providing all information requested.”

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined to comment.

Novartis said it hired Cohen on a 0,000-a-month contract in February last year because it believed he “could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters” such as the Affordable Care Act, which Trump had pledged to scrap.

After only one meeting, however, executives concluded Cohen “would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated”, according to the company, and decided “not to engage further”. But the contract could not be terminated so Cohen was paid in full for the year, a spokesman said.

AT&T confirmed earlier on Wednesday that it also paid Cohen. A company spokesperson said it had contracted Trump’s attorney to “provide insights into understanding the new administration”.

Mueller is primarily investigating possible collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russians who interfered in the election.

Cohen is the subject of a separate criminal investigation by federal authorities in New York. His home and offices were searched in surprise raids by FBI agents last month. Prosecutors have said the inquiry relates to Cohen’s personal finances.

Novartis and AT&T were among companies revealed to have paid Cohen in a document published on Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, an attorney for Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic actor known as Stormy Daniels, who is engaged in a legal dispute with Cohen and Trump.

Avenatti’s document said a subsidiary of the Swiss company had made at least four payments to Cohen’s company totalling 0,000. Confirming the arrangement, the company said: “The terms were consistent with the market.”

The records also said AT&T paid Cohen ,000 per month for at least four months, meaning the company may have paid him as much as 0,000 for the year. Trump’s administration was at the time considering whether to allow an bn merger of AT&T and Time Warner, which it has since rejected .

Cohen was also paid by Columbus Nova, the US affiliate of a corporate empire belonging to Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch closely linked to Vladimir Putin. Avenatti’s document said the payments totalled about half a million dollars.

Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, hit back at Avenatti in a furious letter filed to Manhattan’s federal court late on Wednesday, in which he confirmed that AT&T, Novartis and Columbus Nova were all Cohen clients.

Ryan said Avenatti appeared to have obtained Cohen’s bank records, and “should be required to explain” how he got them before he is allowed to be officially involved in a dispute the court is considering over records the FBI seized from Cohen’s home and offices.

The inspector general of the US Treasury opened an investigation on Wednesday into whether Cohen’s bank records were improperly leaked. Richard Delmar, a counsel to the inspector general, told the Guardian the inquiry would focus on “compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act and its protections of information”.

Some reports on Wednesday alleged that Cohen had offered his clients access to senior administration officials.

Avenatti sought to connect the payments from Novartis to the company’s incoming chief executive, Vas Narasimhan, being invited to a group dinner with Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 25 January 2018.

But Novartis stressed on Wednesday that the company’s contract with Cohen predated Narasimhan, and said he had “no involvement whatsoever” in the arrangement.

Columbus Nova said Vekselberg had no involvement in its own arrangement with Cohen. Vekselberg, too, was reportedly interviewed by investigators for Mueller’s team. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

Cohen used the same Delaware company to pay Daniels 0,000 in October 2016 in return for an agreement that she would not talk publicly about allegedly having had sex with Trump a decade earlier. The arrangement was later disclosed by reporters.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), one of the biggest defence companies in South Korea, also confirmed it had paid Cohen. Avenatti’s document said it had paid Essential Consultants 0,000 in November last year.

A spokesman for the company told Reuters that it had contracted Cohen for “legal consulting concerning accounting standards”. KAI is currently competing for a lucrative contract from the US defense department and hopes to produce about 350 trainer jets in partnership with the US contractor Lockheed Martin.

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Prezzo in Salisbury cordoned off by police after man and woman fall ill

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Police have sealed off a restaurant in Salisbury and the surrounding area after two people were taken ill.


The ambulance service called officers to Prezzo, in High Street, at 18:45 BST following “a medical incident” involving a man and a woman.


A Wiltshire Police statement said it had cordoned off the area as a precaution while it established “what has led them to fall ill”.
A witness reported seeing a person in a a hazardous material suit attend.

(BBC)

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California to launch its ‘own damn satellite’

California is set to launch a satellite to track greenhouse gases, as former US Secretary of State John Kerry and island nation leaders warned that the world is far off course to avoid the worst effects of rising temperatures.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “California to launch its ‘own damn satellite’ to track greenhouse gases” was written by Emily Holden and Oliver Milman in San Francisco, for theguardian.com on Friday 14th September 2018 20.49 UTC

California is set to launch a satellite to track greenhouse gases, as former US Secretary of State John Kerry and island nation leaders warned that the world is far off course to avoid the worst effects of rising temperatures.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced plans for the satellite on the last day of a climate change summit hosted by San Francisco, in a final rebuke to President Donald Trump’s denial of man-made warming.

“With science still under attack,” Brown said “we’re going to launch our own satellite, our own damn satellite, to figure out where the pollution is.” Brown said the satellite will help pinpoint the source of planet-warming emissions.

California will team up with Planet Labs, a company run by ex-Nasa scientists. The data collected, including on carbon dioxide emissions and methane leaks from oil and gas operations, could be made public as part of a partnership with the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund. The new project comes as Trump has proposed slashing Nasa climate research mission budgets. It is one of dozens of commitments of mixed significance unveiled by states, cities and businesses at the event.

Despite the optimism on show at the summit, Kerry said climate efforts must ramp up.

“I am going to tell the truth, and the truth is we are not anywhere near where we need to be with respect to the overall challenge of climate change,” said Kerry, who worked to secure the 2015 global Paris climate agreement under former president Barack Obama.

Kerry blasted Donald Trump for deciding to leave that deal, calling it “one of the single greatest acts of irresponsibility by a president of the United States anywhere at any time.”

Leaders of the countries already suffering most from sea-level rise and ocean acidification echoed Kerry’s concerns, saying that international action is slowing.

“The world has lost, all of us have lost, momentum since Paris in 2015. Although the rate of increase has slowed, we’ve not yet peaked our global emissions. But we must do so by 2020. We really cannot afford to wait any longer,” said Mia Mottley, prime minister of the Caribbean island nation of Barbados.

Mottley’s country is in the direct path of hurricanes that are growing in strength and may narrowly avoid a more direct hit from tropical storm Isaac this week.

The world is set to watch temperatures rise 3C above pre-industrial levels by the time a child born today is old, Mottley said, even if countries adhere to the goals they said.

Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji, said countries need to speed their work.

“We all know that the levels of ambition in our national plans need to be ramped up because we are not on track to meet the targets of the Paris agreement,” Bainimarama said.

Former US vice-president Al Gore struck a more positive tone.

“We must do it. We can do it. I’m convinced ever more because of the success of this summit here in San Francisco that we will do it,” he said, reminding that the US has not technically left the Paris deal yet and that a new president could re-enter.

The warnings were at odds with the overall atmosphere of the summit.

On the eve of the gathering, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that would make the state’s electricity supply carbon-free by 2045. A separate executive order by Brown is more sweeping, committing to net zero emissions across the entire California economy, also by 2045.

Other cities and regions from around the world have followed this with various pledges, with New York City promising $4bn to renewable energy and clean water and cities including Los Angeles, Tokyo, Honolulu, Oslo and Greater Manchester pledging to build energy efficient buildings or deploy fleets of electric buses.

A group of 29 philanthropists committed $4bn over five years to combat climate change, the largest such investment of its kind, while companies such as Ikea, Walmart and Unilever promised to reduce emissions through measures such as electrified trucks for deliveries and action to prevent deforestation in the tropics.

Jonathan Pershing, the State Department’s climate negotiator under Obama, said the summit brings hope to the climate cause.

“The story here is optimistic. The question here is does the optimism translate, and can this message get out globally,” Pershing said. “There is a good broad cross-section of people from around the world, but it’s just a few thousand people, and it’s a problem that’s going to require engagement by millions.”

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Christine Blasey accuses Kavanaugh of assault in letter to senator

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Update:Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who wrote the letter accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, is going public with her story, saying she thought he might kill her. More to come.

‘I thought he might inadvertently kill me,’ said Ford, now a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California, to The Washington Post. ‘He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.’

A woman is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of assaulting her when they were in high school in the early 1980s, according to a source familiar with the allegations, which were relayed in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein earlier this summer.

CNN reports the letter details an incident when the woman, who has not come forward publicly, attended a party with Kavanaugh and others in a suburban Maryland home. Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has referred the letter to the FBI.

Kavanaugh physically pushed her into a bedroom, the accuser said. Along with another male, Kavanaugh locked the door from the inside and played loud music that the accuser said precluded successful attempts to yell for help.

Both men were drunk, she said, and Kavanaugh attempted to remove her clothes.

At one point, Kavanaugh was on top of her laughing as the other male in the room periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh.

Kavanaugh held his hand over her mouth at one point, and she said she felt her life was inadvertently in danger.

She said she was able to leave the room and go into a hallway bathroom. After Kavanaugh and the other male began talking to others in the house, she went home.

There is no indication the woman reported the incident to law enforcement at the time, but she said she has received medical treatment regarding the alleged assault. The woman also declined to come forward publicly after sending the letter to Feinstein. The accuser’s name was redacted before Feinstein forwarded it to the FBI.

In a statement Friday, Kavanaugh denied the allegation.

“I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time,” he said.

Kavanaugh testified for three days before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, where the issue was not raised. The Judiciary panel is scheduled to consider Kavanaugh’s nomination next Thursday, and the full Senate may vote on confirmation later this month.

The New Yorker first reported the details of the letter to Feinstein. The woman declined a request from the magazine for comment.

Old Article:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has said that she possesses a sensitive document about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and is referring the matter to the Justice Department.

In a statement she said:

“I have received information from an individual concerning the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” Feinstein said in a statement. “That individual strongly requested confidentiality, declined to come forward or press the matter further, and I have honored that decision. I have, however, referred the matter to federal investigative authorities.”

The document in question is believed to be a letter detailing an interaction between an unnamed woman and Kavanaugh dating back to their time together in high school. 

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