Does Cohen plea reveal legal exposure for Trump children?

The legal panel weighs in on the plea deal by Michael Cohen and him now accusing his former boss, Pres. Trump, of lying about his business deals with Russia.

Posted: Nov 30, 2018 12:02 PM
Updated: Nov 30, 2018 12:33 PM

President Donald Trump was only a half-hour into his nine-hour flight to the G20 summit here in the Argentine capital when he decided to pull the plug on the most hotly anticipated moment of his trip: a lengthy face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But while Trump's abrupt decision quashed concerns that the President would repeat his cozy performance alongside Putin during their last meeting in Helsinki, Finland, new allegations by the President's former longtime attorney Michael Cohen revived questions about Trump's financial ties to Russia as he arrived for the international summit.

Trump's planned meetings with a half-dozen other world leaders -- combined with the possibility of diplomatic snafus -- offer little promise of clearing the smoke of suspicion that is once again following him abroad.

The President also refused to back away from the shadow of the Mueller investigation, beginning his day with a fresh pair of tweets about the Cohen saga, saying his business dealings while a candidate were "very legal & very cool."

Hours later, the White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement blaming the "Russian Witch Hunt Hoax" -- a reference to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation -- for hurting US-Russia relations.

"The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is hopefully now nearing an end, is doing very well. Unfortunately, it probably does undermine our relationship with Russia," Sanders said, even as she insisted Trump's meeting with Putin was canceled because of Russia's seizure of Ukrainian Navy ships and sailors earlier this week.

A Kremlin spokesman told Russian state media earlier Friday that Trump and Putin would have a "brief impromptu meeting" on the sidelines of the G20. Though the two leaders are likely to see each other and shake hands alongside other leaders at the international summit, a White House official said no meeting had been rescheduled between the two leaders.

The official said the Kremlin appeared to be "trying to save face" with the Friday morning statement.

Trump arrived in Buenos Aires for the summit late Thursday night, marking the first time he has set foot in Latin America in his nearly two years in office and kicking off what promises to be a whirlwind 48-hour visit. Friday will amount to the President's busiest day of diplomacy, but his most important meeting of the summit -- his dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping -- doesn't come until a day later.

Trump's aides hoped a signing ceremony for the recently struck United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement would act as a centerpiece of the trip. At the Friday morning event, Trump hailed the revised NAFTA free trade deal, rebranded as the USMCA, as a "truly groundbreaking achievement" alongside his Canadian and Mexican counterparts.

Persistent disputes with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- including over US steel and aluminum tariffs -- led to questions about who precisely from the Canadian side would be doing the signing, but Trudeau stood next to Trump and touted the deal as a success for middle class workers. Still, he pressed Trump during the event to remove steel and aluminum tariffs imposed earlier this year.

Trump has hailed the agreement as evidence of his negotiating prowess and said the pact would benefit American workers. He's been unnerved in recent days by a shaky stock market and factory closures by General Motors, according to people familiar with the matter, and is hoping to be able to tout the new trade agreement in Argentina.

Aggressive schedule

Trump was darting from bilateral meetings to summit sessions and back, starting with an early morning breakfast alongside Argentine President Mauricio Macri, the summit's host. Trump has known Macri for decades, beginning when both were real estate developers.

"I want to just say I've been friends with Mauricio for a long time, many years," Trump said at the Casa Rosada, the presidential mansion. "He was a young man, a handsome man."

Trump recollected a deal with Macri's family to develop the West Side railroad yards -- one of the "largest jobs in Manhattan," in Trump's telling.

"That was in my civilian days," Trump said. "Little did you realize I would become president."

Trump said in their meeting, he'd discuss trade and military purchases with the Argentine president.

That session will lead into the large gathering of the G20, where Trump will find himself face-to-face with the collection of global leaders he has sometimes rebuffed. It's in these sessions that he's most likely to run across Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who most of the world has castigated after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump has taken the opposite approach, indicating he has no plans to cut ties to Saudi Arabia. And while he couldn't fit in a formal meeting with the crown prince in Buenos Aires, he indicated before he departed the US on Thursday that he would like to speak to the young leader.

A pull-aside chat is scheduled with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose government has pushed for greater punishment of Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi's killing, which occurred at a consulate in Istanbul. Trump is also slated to speak on the sidelines with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has acted as an avid cheerleader for Trump's diplomatic opening with North Korea.

Less enthusiastic has been Japanese President Shinzo Abe, who's expressed concern about easing pressure on Pyongyang without any corresponding steps from the North Korean regime. Trump will have a more formal meeting with Abe in the afternoon, where they'll be joined by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Trump was supposed to sit later in the day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who hosted last year's G20 and has withstood sustained attacks by Trump over auto imports and trade. But Merkel's government plane suffered technical problems en route, and she was forced to turn back to Cologne. She was expected to arrive late to the summit, and the meeting did not appear on Trump's schedule for Friday.

Merkel recently announced that she will not run for another term as chancellor after acting as Europe's de facto leader for more than a decade.

G20 members are also bracing for US intransigence as the leaders work to release a final joint communique from the assembled leaders -- a Trump administration position that has hampered efforts to release communiques at past summits.

A source familiar with discussions said US national security adviser John Bolton has positioned the US's stance on the communique's language as a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

A White House official said the US is "committed to working toward consensus on the communique but will stand firm against language that prejudices US positions and is willing to walk away if necessary."

The official said the US is leaving some room for compromise, but has made clear that there are certain positions regarding the communique that are non-negotiable. At least "not right now," the official said.

Ultimately, a decision on the communique will come down to the President himself -- and his willingness to compromise versus being cast as the odd man out.

Mueller cloud remains

Hanging over it all will be the questions sparked by the latest twist in special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation -- just the latest instance of the Mueller investigation following Trump outside the United States.

The President's international trips have been repeatedly marred by developments in the investigation, beginning with Mueller's appointment as special counsel just two days before Trump left for his first international trip. The President has publicly and privately groused that he thinks the investigation has hampered his diplomatic efforts on the world stage.

Trump's second foreign trip, in July 2017, became another key moment in the Mueller investigation as the President and his aides worked to craft a statement on behalf of his eldest son concerning the now-infamous meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower a year prior. A year later, as the President prepared to fly to Helsinki to meet with Putin, the Justice Department announced the indictment of Russian intelligence officers linked to election interference.

The Cohen plea agreement on Thursday became the latest example, and soon after the news emerged Trump moved to scrap his meeting with Putin. The White House said Trump had decided to cancel the get-together following a meeting with his top foreign policy advisers after boarding Air Force One, even though no new information had publicly emerged.

Scrapping the meeting with Putin, though, did not eliminate all of the President's flair for make-or-break drama. He is still scheduled to join Xi, the Chinese President, for a working dinner on Saturday to hash out a possible ceasefire to the trade war that has roiled their countries and threatens to wreak havoc on the global economy if the ratcheting-up persists.

Leaving the White House on Thursday, Trump kept the global suspense going.

"I think we're very close to doing something with China, but I don't know that I want to do it, because what we have right now is billions and billions of dollars coming into the United States in the form of tariffs or taxes. So I really don't know," the President said before departing Washington. "But I will tell you that I think China wants to make a deal. I'm open to making a deal. But, frankly, I like the deal we have right now."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
Tishomingo333288
Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
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