Pressure mounting, former Trump ‘fixer’ turns aggressive
By JONATHAN LEMIRE, MICHAEL R. SISAK and ERIC TUCKER
Sunday, July 29
WASHINGTON (AP) — The hiring of a Washington insider to be a public attack dog. Tantalizing leaks to the media. Puzzling allegations of actions that could fell a president. Talk of more to come.
What is Michael Cohen up to?
President Donald Trump’s ex-lawyer has largely stayed out of the spotlight in the months since federal agents raided his office and hotel room and seized scores of records about his work for Trump. But this week, he has taken a sharply more aggressive and public turn, seeming to wage open warfare with the White House while weighing whether to cooperate with investigators. The moves suggest Cohen is looking for a way out of looming trouble. But his behavior doesn’t quite line up with a clear strategy, legal experts say. And if his signals are aimed at Trump, they’ve largely served to infuriate the president.
Three days after Cohen’s new lawyer, Lanny Davis, released a tape of Cohen and Trump talking about paying for Playboy model Karen McDougal’s silence, the relationship splintered further Friday. That was after a CNN report that Cohen was willing to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew in advance of a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which the Republican candidate’s eldest son sought damaging information from a Russian lawyer about Hillary Clinton.
Trump on Friday vehemently repeated his denial that he knew about the meeting, which is at the center of Mueller’s probe, tweeting “NO,” he “did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.”
CNN cited anonymous sources saying Cohen was willing to share his information with Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Cohen does not have any evidence such as audiotapes verifying his claims, CNN’s sources said.
Cohen’s camp has denied being the source of the CNN report, the basic substance of which The Associated Press independently confirmed.
The specter of the potentially damaging information, which would run counter to months of denials and point toward a willingness to collude with a foreign power by Trump himself, again raised the possibility of what Cohen could deliver to prosecutors if he decides to cooperate.
Cohen has not yet decided to work with the federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, according to two people familiar with his thinking but not authorized to discuss private conversations.
The Justice Department has been investigating Cohen for months, raiding his home, office and hotel room in April in search of documents related to a $130,000 payment the attorney facilitated before the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who says she had sex with Trump in 2006. If Cohen, who specialized in making deals and making Trump’s problems go away, were to cut a deal, he would do so with an eye toward eliminating or cutting his potential punishment.
His lawyer, Davis, a Democrat once known as a fierce defender of President Bill Clinton, would not comment on whether Cohen was fishing for a deal.
“My observation is that it was an evolution that caused him to decide once Donald Trump was president that he had to tell truth and change his life,” Davis told the AP. “He hit the reset button on his life and what he had done previously.”
Those close to Cohen describe the lawyer, who has been holed up in a Manhattan hotel after a pipe burst in his apartment, as bewildered at the fast-moving events around him as he tries to look out for his family and make decisions about their future. Cohen has also been badly hurt by the president’s public anger and is determined to hit back, according to two people familiar with this thinking.
There has been some speculation that Cohen may be angling for a pardon from Trump, who has begun wielding — and discussing — the presidential power frequently of late. But a person close to Cohen downplayed the possibility.
Most people in comparable legal peril would be encouraged to stay out of the spotlight and communicate directly with prosecutors, not through the press, experts said.
Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, said Cohen “seems to be taking a page out of President Trump’s playbook by having his lawyers aggressively respond in the media to attacks on his credibility and reputation.” It’s a “high stakes gambit” that could backfire if he’s angling to become a cooperator, Mintz said.
“Prosecutors prefer to strike cooperation deals quietly and in private because they want to save the impact of any valuable testimony and information that a cooperating witness can offer until trial,” he said.
Moreover, should Cohen choose to cooperate with investigators, including Mueller, it’s not clear what information he has that they could not gather for themselves or have not already learned on their own.
The Mueller team has been at work for 14 months. Defendants looking for lenient deals through their cooperation usually have better luck if they come through the government’s door earlier in an investigation.
Additionally, Cohen has made no public mention of Trump’s knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting. If he mentioned the crucial detail to House investigators it was not included in their massive report on the matter.
That inconsistency was seized upon by Rudy Giuliani, the president’s attorney. Giuliani, who called Cohen “an honest, honorable lawyer” as recently as May, has made a sport out of bashing Cohen in recent days. On Friday he called Cohen “an incredible liar who’s got a tremendous motive to lie now because he’s got nothing to give.”
Cohen frequently recorded his conversations, and prosecutors are believed to have dozens of them, including discussions with journalists, according to Davis.
Trump has been seething at Cohen since the recent tape’s release, raging to confidants that he could not believe he was being betrayed by someone he worked with for a decade, according to a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to discuss private conversations.
The president publicly aired his grievances with a Friday tweet about Cohen, though he did not name him:
“Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?). He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!”
Cohen says on the tape with Trump that he’s already spoken about the McDougal-story payment with the Trump Organization’s finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, on “how to set the whole thing up.” The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Weisselberg, who had intimate knowledge of the president’s finances, has been issued a subpoena.
When asked about that and other matters, the normally press-friendly Davis on Friday did an abrupt about-face and told the AP he was now “completely barred from talking to the media.”
Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Jake Pearson contributed reporting.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JonLemire, Sisak at http://twitter.com/mikesisak and Tucker at http://twitter.com/etuckerAP
Yost’s Tab to Taxpayers Could Total As Much As 300k From Payments to Students to Attend His ECOT Speeches
CLEVELAND — Earlier this month, news broke revealing that Auditor of State Dave Yost spoke in front of an audience of kids being paid taxpayer cash at the now-defunct online charter school, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT).
Yost spoke at ECOT graduations in front of paid audiences on three separate occasions from 2013 to 2015. In two of the speeches, Yost presented ECOT with an award for being good stewards of taxpayer money, despite the fact that the audience watching him do it were being paid tax money and the school was defrauding the state of Ohio to the tune of nearly $200 million.
With ECOT claiming “more than 2,000” graduates in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively, Yost’s total tab to taxpayers could exceed $300,000. It is, at a minimum, incumbent on the Auditor’s office, without Yost, to calculate just how much money was wasted on Yost’s paid audiences. Yet again, this newest part of the scandal demonstrates why Yost must recuse himself from any matters relating to ECOT.
Over two weeks ago, the Ohio Democratic Party called on Yost to reimburse taxpayers for speeches. There has been nothing but silence from Yost.
Steve Dettelbach, Democratic nominee for Ohio Attorney General, issued the following statement:
“Dave Yost still owes taxpayers as much as $300,000 for his paid ECOT speech audiences; he needs to reimburse those taxpayers for the cash that ECOT misused for his benefit immediately.
“In order to fill the room for his speeches at ECOT graduation ceremonies — where he presented the scam school with awards for bookkeeping — Dave Yost allowed ECOT and its corrupt executives to pay students to attend.
“This is yet another example of Yost putting his big money donors over regular Ohioans while they stole almost $200 million. It is the Auditor’s job to take a fine-toothed comb to ECOT’s books but I guess that doesn’t apply to an Auditor with dirty ECOT money burning a hole in his pocket.”
After prison release, Palestinian teen considers law study
By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH
Monday, July 30
NABI SALEH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian teen Ahed Tamimi, who became an international symbol of resistance to Israeli occupation after slapping two soldiers, walked out of an Israeli prison Sunday and told throngs of journalists and well-wishers that she now wants to study law to defend her people.
The curly haired 17-year-old said that “resistance continues until the occupation is removed,” but refrained from saying she would slap soldiers again. The teen, who is on probation, said her eight months in prison were tough and helped her appreciate life.
At an outdoor news conference near her family home, she spoke against the backdrop of a large model of a slingshot that was “loaded” with a pencil rather than a stone, apparently to highlight education as one of the possible Palestinian tactics.
Underlying her case are clashing narratives about Israel’s half-century rule over the Palestinians, the extent of permissible Palestinian resistance to it and the battle for global public opinion.
Tamimi’s supporters see a brave girl who struck two armed soldiers in frustration after having just learned that Israeli troops seriously wounded a 15-year-old cousin, shooting him in the head from close range with a rubber bullet during nearby stone-throwing clashes.
In Israel, she is seen by many either as a provocateur, an irritation or a threat to the military’s deterrence policy — even as a “terrorist.” Israel has treated her actions as a criminal offense, indicting her on charges of assault and incitement. In liberal circles, the hard-charging prosecution of Tamimi was criticized as a public relations disaster because it turned her into an international icon.
Her release comes at a time when Palestinian hopes for an independent state appear dimmer than ever.
Israeli-Palestinian talks on setting up a state in lands captured by Israel in 1967 — the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — have been deadlocked since hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to power in 2009. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended contacts with the U.S. after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December in what Palestinians denounced as a display of blatant pro-Israel bias. Abbas, meanwhile, has stepped up financial pressure on Gaza, controlled since 2007 by his bitter domestic rival, the Islamic militant Hamas.
Many Palestinians are disillusioned by their leaders in both political camps and feel exhausted after years of conflict with Israel. Alternatives have arisen, including calling for a single state for both peoples between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, but haven’t gained a mass following.
In this context, the idea of so-called popular resistance — regular demonstrations, including stone-throwing by unarmed protesters — has only caught on in a few West Bank villages, including Nabi Saleh, home to the extended Tamimi clan.
Since 2009, residents of Nabi Salah have staged regular anti-occupation protests that often ended with stone-throwing clashes. Ahed has participated in such marches from a young age and has had several highly publicized run-ins with soldiers. One photo shows the then 12-year-old raising a clenched fist toward a soldier towering over her.
In a sign of her popularity, a pair of Italian artists painted a large mural of her on Israel’s West Bank separation barrier ahead of her release.
Israeli police said they were caught in the act along with another Palestinian and arrested for vandalism. On Sunday, Israel canceled the visas of the two Italians and ordered them to leave the country within three days, police said.
Ahed and her mother Nariman — also arrested in December in connection with the same incident — were released Sunday morning from a prison in northern Israel. They were driven by bus to the West Bank and were given a hero’s welcome in Nabi Saleh.
“The resistance continues until the occupation is removed,” Ahed said upon her return. “All the female prisoners are steadfast. I salute everyone who supported me and my case.”
From her home, Ahed headed to a visit to the grave of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. She laid a wreath, kissed the headstone — twice at the request of photographers — and recited a prayer from the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
She was then taken with her family to a meeting with Abbas at his headquarters in Ramallah.
The 83-year-old Abbas praised her as a symbol of resistance to occupation — even as he faces growing domestic criticism for not walking away from continued security coordination between his forces and Israeli troops against Hamas, a shared foe.
In an afternoon news conference, Ahed said that she completed her high school exams in prison, with the help of other prisoners. Palestinian inmates typically organize study courses to complete high school and even university degrees.
“I will study law to defend my people and defend my Palestinian cause in international forums,” she said.
She said her prison experience was tough, and that she missed her old life in the village and her friends. She said she underwent three lengthy interrogations without a female officer present, in violation of Israel’s own rules.
At one point Sunday, Ahed received a call from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who congratulated her on her release, said her father.
Tamimi’s scuffle with the two soldiers took place Dec. 15 in Nabi Saleh.
At the time, protests had erupted in several parts of the West Bank over Trump’s recognition 10 days earlier of the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. She was arrested at her home four days later, in the middle of the night.
Ahed was 16 when she was arrested and turned 17 while in custody. Her case has trained a spotlight on the detention of Palestinian minors by Israel, a practice that has been criticized by international rights groups. Some 300 minors are currently being held, according to Palestinian figures.
Israeli Cabinet minister Uri Ariel said the Tamimi case highlighted what could happen if Israel lets its guard down.
“I think Israel acts too mercifully with these types of terrorists. Israel should treat harshly those who hit its soldiers,” he told The Associated Press. “We can’t have a situation where there is no deterrence. Lack of deterrence leads to the reality we see now … we must change that.”
Mount Carmel Health System Partners with Survival Flight
Two, co-branded helicopters begin service this summer to offer patient helicopter transfers
Columbus, Ohio – Mount Carmel Health System and Survival Flight are bringing upgraded helicopter patient transfers to the region with an exclusive partnership. The long-term agreement with the ambulatory helicopter service equips Mount Carmel with helicopters that provide a quicker response time for patients than any other emergency air medical provider in central Ohio.
The first of the co-branded helicopters began service at Mount Carmel St. Ann’s last month and the second will begin at Mount Carmel West in August. The latter will relocate to Mount Carmel Grove City when inpatient services transfer from Mount Carmel West later this year.
“We are delighted to partner with Survival Flight, which is an extension of our continued dedication to offer the highest standard of care to our patients,” said Jodi Wilson, vice president of emergency services at Mount Carmel. “These advancements in emergency medical transportation at our hospitals further solidify our health system as a regional healthcare leader.”
The Survival Flight larger-frame aircraft can accommodate a family member and carry enough medical supplies for two transport flights without requiring restocking. Operating in a constant state of readiness with dedicated crews, patients are provided timely care when an emergency occurs. They will be used to transport acutely ill or injured patients who need immediate medical attention, as well as equally acute patients from outlying areas that may not have a viable transport option to Mount Carmel hospitals. The new service also provides opportunities for joint outreach to underserved areas, and improves the system’s ability to provide care more quickly to high-acuity patients.
“Emergency air medical services provide a critical emergency healthcare service to people whose lives depend on it,” said Andy Arthurs, vice president of EMS services at Survival Flight. “Our partnership with Mount Carmel allows us to reach patients in central Ohio and its surrounding areas more quickly than ever.”
About Mount Carmel Health System
Mount Carmel has provided high quality, comprehensive healthcare services in central Ohio for more than 130 years. Our team of more than 10,900 colleagues, 2,100 physicians and 900 volunteers provide compassionate, people-centered primary and specialty care at its four hospitals – Mount Carmel East, Mount Carmel West, Mount Carmel St. Ann’s and Mount Carmel New Albany – as well as in surgery centers, emergency and ambulatory care centers, hospice and home care. Mount Carmel Medical Group and Mount Carmel Health Partners, along with their networks of physicians, work to deliver the right care, at the right time, in the most appropriate setting cost-effectively. MediGold, a Medicare Advantage health insurance plan, and the Mount Carmel College of Nursing – one of Ohio’s largest baccalaureate nursing degree programs – are integral members of the health system. Mount Carmel is a member of Trinity Health.
About Survival Flight
Survival Flight Inc. is a premier emergency medical transportation company dedicated to air medical transportation, focusing on the quality of care to patient and safety. The company’s mission and purpose is serving customers with unsurpassed and rapid medical services to save lives.
Survival Flight currently has bases in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma, but will fly anywhere in the United States where services are needed. Survival Flight operates Bell and Sikorsky helicopters along with Pilatus PC-12 airplanes.