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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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‘I pray for Donald Trump, I do’: Bishop Michael Curry addresses US divisions

The preacher who shone at the royal wedding has returned home to the progressive Reclaiming Jesus movement

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘I pray for Donald Trump, I do’: Bishop Michael Curry addresses US divisions” was written by Lauren Gambino in Washington, for theguardian.com on Sunday 27th May 2018 11.49 UTC

Faith leaders working with Bishop Michael Curry to turn his sermons of love into a movement see his invitation to preach at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as a moment of divine intervention.

“God used a royal wedding to have the gospel preached probably to the largest audience at one time,” said Jim Wallis, a progressive Christian leader and a founder of the Reclaiming Jesus movement. “My dear friend Bishop Curry was just being himself in that pulpit. But God made that happen in all kinds of humorous and miraculous ways.”

For 24 hours after the ceremony at Windsor Castle last week, Curry rivaled Pope Francis as the most recognizable faith leader in the world. He was interviewed by major networks on both sides of the Atlantic. Fans asked for selfies. He was even parodied on Saturday Night Live.

Then the first African American leader of the Episcopal Church returned home, to embark on a new mission. He wants to address what he and other clergy behind Reclaiming Jesus call “a dangerous crisis of moral and political leadership at the highest levels of our government and in our churches”.

“My hope and prayer is that what we’re really doing is helping the average Christian person of faith find their voice,” Curry told the Guardian. “We’re trying to find a way to bring people together and the values that we share is our starting place for doing that.”

The 65-year-old, who was born in Chicago and raised by his grandmother after his mother’s death, is the descendent of slaves and sharecroppers in North Carolina. His presence at Westminster Abbey, a reflection of Markle’s African American ancestry, was a symbolic moment for two countries riven by race and class. In his speech, Curry invoked Martin Luther King Jr and slavery, telling the couple: “Make of this old world, a new world.”

Bishop Michael Curry gives an address during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.
Bishop Michael Curry gives an address during the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

That was the message he brought to Washington on Thursday, when he linked arms with prominent progressive leaders and led hundreds of Christians in silent procession to the White House. On the sidewalk facing the seat of American power, the elders read from a declaration as hundreds raised votive candles.

The Reclaiming Jesus movement, like other progressive religious groups, is asking people of faith to reject policies that ban refugees and immigrants from the US and equivocations on white supremacy – without joining a political side.

“We don’t tell people how to vote,” Curry said. “We don’t tell people exactly what policies they must stand for. We identify what are the values that will guide you in your life. But the rest? That’s between you and God.”

The lengthy founding document lists six core principles the co-signers hope will help shift the conversation around what they believe are the core teachings of the Bible: a focus on the poor, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. It does not mention Donald Trump by name but it does repudiate his policies and the forces unleashed by his election.

It calls on Christians to denounce the “resurgence of white nationalism and racism in our nation on many fronts, including the highest levels of political leadership”, and rejects Trump’s America First agenda.

The response from Trump’s most ardent evangelical supporters has underlined how deep divisions are carved – and how difficult it will be to find common ground.

“There is nothing wrong with putting America first,” Robert Jeffress, a pastor at First Baptist Dallas and a prominent member of the president’s evangelical advisory board, told Fox News. “That is what a government is supposed to do. That is God’s responsibility for government. As individual Christians, yes, we put others before ourselves but government doesn’t do that.”

Jeffress said Curry was “sincere” in his message but also “sincerely wrong” in his understanding of what the Bible says about the role of government.

Curry said he had expected a strong reaction to the Reclaiming Jesus declaration.

“It’s a spiritual document and spiritual documents are moral and ethical statements so they have implications,” he said. “We identify cultural maladies – we’re not pointing the finger at anybody. We’re not blaming anybody.”

Asked if he prays for the president, Curry replied without reservation: “I pray for Donald Trump, I do. He’s a child of God, just like the immigrant is a child of God.”

Pastor Robert Jeffress with Donald Trump in Washington.
Pastor Robert Jeffress with Donald Trump in Washington. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If Curry had an audience with the president, he said, he would tell him the same thing he tells himself and anybody else he prays for: “Live by the practice of love for your neighbor.”

“Selfish, self-centered living by any or all of us is what the Christian tradition has meant by sin all along,” he said.

Before the vigil, Curry returned to the pulpit to deliver a soaring if brief sermon at the National City Christian Church.

“Love your neighbor,” Curry said, in the magisterial cadence now recognized around the world. “Love the neighbor you like and the neighbor you don’t like. Love the neighbor you agree with and the neighbor you don’t agree with. Love your Democrat neighbor, your Republican neighbor, your black neighbor, your white neighbor, your Anglo neighbor, your Latino neighbor and your LGBTQ neighbor. Love your neighbor! That’s why we’re here!”

Among those listening were John Carr, who runs the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University. He said what he saw on Thursday was not a political movement but the “rise of the religious middle”.

“In these incredibly polarizing and frankly demoralizing times,” he said, “we need a moral message that’s anchored in faith not ideology and politics”.

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Rudy Giuliani admits ‘Spygate’ is Trump PR tactic against Robert Mueller

  • President’s lawyer gives meandering CNN interview
  • ‘It’s for public opinion’, he says of claims of campaign informant

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Rudy Giuliani admits ‘Spygate’ is Trump PR tactic against Robert Mueller” was written by Tom McCarthy, for theguardian.com on Sunday 27th May 2018 13.47 UTC

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said on Sunday that his repeated imputations of a supposed scandal at the heart of the Robert Mueller investigation – which Donald Trump calls “Spygate” – amounted to a tactic to sway public opinion and limit the risk of the president being impeached.

“Of course we have to do it to defend the president,” Trump’s lawyer told CNN State of the Union host Dana Bash, who accused him of being part of a campaign to undermine the Mueller investigation. Trump has repeatedly called the special counsel’s work a “witch hunt”, despite its producing five guilty pleas, including by three former Trump aides, and evidence of Russian tampering in US elections.

“It is for public opinion,” Giuliani said of his public campaign of dissimulation. “Because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach. Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury – and it should be – is the American people.

“So Republicans largely, many independents, even some Democrats now question the legitimacy of [the Mueller investigation],” Giuliani said. “Democrats I would suggest for their own self-interest, this is not a good issue to go into the midterms.”

As Giuliani acknowledged the political nature of his public campaign against Mueller, Trump advanced that campaign on Twitter, lamenting what he said were “young and beautiful lives … devastated and destroyed” by the investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“They went back home in tatters!” Trump wrote. It was unclear who he was talking about.

Trump, Giuliani and other allies claim reports that an FBI informant monitored linkes between Trump aides and Russia show there was a “spy” on the Trump campaign. Senior figures in the intelligence community have rubbished such claims.

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, the Democrat Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said: “This is part of the propaganda machine. Let’s spread a completely fallacious story and then say it needs to be investigated, and give it a life of its own.”

Giuliani is a former US attorney for the southern district of New York. In his CNN appearance, he called former CIA director John Brennan and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, both fierce critics of Trump, “two clowns”.

“I have no regard at all for Brennan or Clapper. I think they’re two clowns…” Giuliani said. “They’re not civil servants as far as I know.”

Clapper told the same show: “In the space of a week I’ve progressed from being the dumbest intelligence officer on the planet, from President Trump, to a clown. So it’s progress, I guess.”

Michael Hayden, another former director of the CIA, told ABC Trump was “simply trying to delegitimize Mueller … and he’s willing to throw anything against the wall.

“From the outside looking in, from everything I know, everyone has handled this just about the way it should have been handled.”

Giuliani’s month-old job as a spokesman for the president has been marked by confusion, contradiction and scandal. He began by saying money used to seal a 2016 hush agreement with the porn actor Stormy Daniels had come from Trump, who had earlier flatly denied, on camera, any knowledge of the $130,000.

“We’re not changing any stories,” Trump told reporters. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels.

Giuliani also said earlier this month Trump would have had his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pay off women in addition to Daniels “if necessary”. Giuliani told ABC he had “no knowledge” of any other payments to women.

Trump has repeatedly excused and praised Giuliani. “He started yesterday,” Trump said on 4 May. “He’ll get his facts straight. It’s actually very simple, there has been a lot of misinformation really.”

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Harvey Weinstein appears in court charged with rape and other sexual offences

Disgraced movie producer handed himself in to New York police on Friday morning over claims by two women

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Harvey Weinstein appears in court charged with rape and other sexual offences” was written by Amanda Holpuch and Jamiles Lartey in New York, for theguardian.com on Friday 25th May 2018 16.51 UTC

The disgraced Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has been charged with rape, a criminal sex act, sex abuse and sexual misconduct for alleged incidents involving two separate women, after he earlier surrendered to authorities in New York.

During a brief court appearance on Friday, Weinstein remained quiet as his lawyers agreed he would post $1m (£750,000) bail and wear an electronic monitoring device. He also surrendered his passport, and agreed not to travel beyond New York and Connecticut.

A prosecutor told the judge that the investigation was ongoing, and that authorities have encouraged other survivors to come forward.

“The defendant used his position, money and power to lure young women into situations where he was able to violate them sexually,” she said.

Speaking outside court, Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said his client intends to plead not guilty. He called the charges “constitutionally flawed” and “not factually supported”.

It is the first criminal case to be brought against Weinstein since the revelations about him erupted last October and sparked the #MeToo movement.

Weinstein, 66, was led in handcuffs, with a detective on either side holding his arms, from the police station into a waiting car. A few minutes later he arrived at criminal court in Manhattan, and was marched in by the detectives to be arraigned on the charges. He has denied all allegations of non-consensual sex.

Weinstein was stone-faced and sullen, and did not respond to questions from reporters.

A statement from the New York police department said: “The NYPD thanks these brave survivors for their courage to come forward and seek justice.”

Weinstein surrendered to police early Friday morning at the NYPD first precinct in Tribeca in lower Manhattan, where the Weinstein Company has its headquarters and where many of the alleged offenses are said to have taken place, either at the offices or a nearby hotel.

 

He stepped from a black SUV wearing a dark jacket over a light blue sweater and white open-necked shirt. He was carrying three books under his arm. He went into the police station before a crowd of news cameras. He did not respond to shouts of “Harvey!”

Two law enforcement officials told the Associated Press the case will include allegations by Lucia Evans, an aspiring actor who has said the Hollywood mogul forced her to perform oral sex on him in his office. She was among the first women to speak out about the producer.

One official said it was likely the case also will include at least one other victim who has not come forward publicly.

After Weinstein’s arrest, Rose McGowan, one of his most prominent accusers, told the UK’s BBC Radio 4: “It’s a concrete slap in the face of abuse of power. I hope we emerge victorious and, if anything, we have emerged victorious, no mater what, because people are listening now.”

Lucia Evans told the New Yorker in a story published in October that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting at his New York office in 2004, the summer before her senior year at Middlebury College.

“I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’” she said.

The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, had been under enormous public pressure to bring a criminal case against Weinstein.

A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case for weeks.

In March, Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor, took the extraordinary step of ordering the state’s attorney general to investigate whether Vance acted properly in 2015 when he decided not to prosecute Weinstein over a previous allegation of unwanted groping, made by an Italian model. That investigation is in its preliminary stages.

More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing. Several actors and models accused him of criminal sexual assaults, but many of the encounters happened too long ago for any prosecution. Rose McGowan said Weinstein raped her in 1997 in Utah, the Sopranos actor Annabella Sciorra said Weinstein raped her in her New York apartment in 1992 and the Norwegian actor Natassia Malthe said Weinstein attacked her in a London hotel room in 2008.

The statute of limitations for rape and certain other sex crimes in New York was eliminated in 2006, but not for attacks that happened prior to 2001.

New York City police detectives said in early November that they were investigating allegations by another accuser, the Boardwalk Empire star Paz de la Huerta, who told police in October that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010. She is not one of the victims in the case on Friday; hers was still pending, officials said.

Authorities in California and London are also investigating assault allegations. Britain has no statute of limits on rape cases; some of the allegations under investigation there date to the 1980s.

Two of the books Weinstein carried into the police station have been identified as Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution by Todd S Purdum, and Elia Kazan: A Biography by Richard Schickel.

Something Wonderful was published last month. Weinstein might see something of himself in the story of successful showmen impresarios credited with changing the cultural landscape.

There are also possible parallels in the story of Elia Kazan, the immigrant director of groundbreaking, multi-award-winning classics such as On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. Originally a communist, Kazan was later scorned by much of liberal Hollywood for testifying before the House committee on un-American activities in 1952. When Kazan was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1999, dozens of audience members chose not to applaud and 250 demonstrators picketed the event.

Schickel’s 2005 biography also documents Kazan’s many affairs. Three times married, he had affairs with many female actors and leading ladies including Marilyn Monroe. Yet Kazan’s reputation as a formidable Hollywood artist weathered political and personal scandals.

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