Ex-Trump fixer Michael Cohen portrayed as greedy opportunist
By JIM MUSTIAN and LARRY NEUMEISTER
Saturday, December 8
NEW YORK (AP) — For weeks, Michael Cohen sought to portray himself as a man who’d found his “true north” after years of shady business dealings and pit-bull loyalty to President Donald Trump.
Prosecutors offered a vastly different assessment Friday of the president’s former fixer, dismissing him as a duplicitous figure who badly misplayed his hand.
In a court filing ahead of Cohen’s sentencing next week, they assailed him as a greedy opportunist who rode Trump’s coattails to wealth and is now exaggerating his level of cooperation with investigators.
They said the “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life” was hidden from three dozen friends and relatives who wrote letters to the court hailing Cohen as “the true meaning of a ‘mensch,” a “consummate patriarch” and a selfless servant “whose manner and bearing is reminiscent of a more gracious era.”
“After cheating the IRS for years, lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the Presidential election, Cohen’s decision to plead guilty – rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes – does not make him a hero,” they wrote.
Cohen, 52, is facing the possibility of roughly four years in prison at a sentencing Dec. 12 for crimes that include tax evasion and helping to coordinate hush money payments to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
His lawyers said Cohen decided to plead guilty, cooperate with the special inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and get sentenced quickly so he can put the case behind him and return to being a breadwinner for his wife of 24 years and their two college-age children.
Their campaign to portray him as a good person included collecting letters from longtime acquaintances telling how a teenage Cohen happened upon a misplaced wallet stuffed with over $1,000 and spent an hour searching for its rightful owner. Or the day Cohen chauffeured a church choir to a cemetery. And when he paid for the surgery of a housekeeper’s child who couldn’t afford it.
“This is the true Michael,” wrote Randall D. Satin, a friend of Cohen’s for four decades.
Prosecutors told the judge they aren’t buying it.
“Now he seeks extraordinary leniency — a sentence of no jail time — based principally on his rose-colored view of the seriousness of the crimes; his claims to a sympathetic personal history; and his provision of certain information to law enforcement,” they wrote.
Cohen was a workaday attorney specializing in negligence and malpractice with a $75,000 salary in 2007 who caught Trump’s eye when he successfully fought the board of directors at a building where he lived when they sought to remove Trump’s name from it, prosecutors said.
Soon afterward, he was hired at the Trump Organization as a special counsel to Trump, earning $500,000 annually.
Reporters came to know him as an arm-twisting advocate for Trump.
“If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit,” Cohen once told ABC News. “If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.”
Prosecutors, in their sentencing papers, cited one snarling exchange with a Daily Beast reporter.
“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your (employer) and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen said.
On the side, Cohen invested in New York City’s taxi industry and in real estate and made high-interest loans to people in the cab business.
He has pleaded guilty to failing to report $4 million in income to the IRS from those businesses.
During the presidential campaign, Cohen worked with executives at the company that owns the National Enquirer to pay the former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, and the adult film actress Stormy Daniels not to talk to reporters about alleged sexual encounters with Trump, who says the affairs never happened.
Cohen told prosecutors Trump directed him to make the payments.
After Trump’s election, Cohen left the Trump Organization and tried to cash in on his connections.
Big companies hired him to offer “insight and access” to the administration. Those companies included AT&T, which paid Cohen $50,000 a month and the pharmaceutical giant Novartis, which paid Cohen $1.2 million.
Prosecutors haven’t charged Cohen with doing anything criminal in connection with those deals, but they singled out the work as “hollow,” saying he did minimal work.
After federal authorities raided his office earlier this year, Cohen’s loyalty to Trump faded. He told ABC News that his family and country came first.
In a court filing last week, Cohen’s lawyers said he had decided to “re-point his internal compass true north toward a productive, ethical and thoroughly law abiding life.”
“He could have fought the government and continued to hold to the party line, positioning himself perhaps for a pardon or clemency, but, instead – for himself, his family, and his country – he took personal responsibility for his own wrongdoing and contributed, and is prepared to continue to contribute, to an investigation that he views as thoroughly legitimate and vital,” they wrote.
In their filing Friday, prosecutors said Cohen acted out of self-interest.
“Any suggestion by Cohen that his meetings with law enforcement reflect a selfless and unprompted about-face are overstated,” the wrote.
In a separate court filing, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office had a more kind view of Cohen’s cooperation, saying he had provided useful information about attempts by Russian intermediaries to influence Trump, as well as other matters.
New York prosecutors said that while Cohen was helpful, he had declined to sign a formal cooperation agreement, which would have required him to confess any other crimes he might have committed. Cohen, they wrote, wasn’t willing to do so. They suggested only a slight reduction in his sentence for his cooperation.
David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, said Cohen appears to have overplayed his hand, leading prosecutors to attack the “bastion of humanity” portrait offered by the defense.
“It does create a sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde portrayal,” Weinstein said.
Dick Cheney biopic ‘Vice’ tops Golden Globes nominations
By JAKE COYLE
AP Film Writer
Thursday, December 6
NEW YORK (AP) — Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” staged an awards-season coup Thursday, landing a leading six nominations from the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards to narrowly edge more expected favorites like Bradley Cooper’s tear-jerking revival “A Star Is Born,” the interracial road-trip drama “Green Book” and the period romp “The Favourite.”
“Vice” topped all contenders in the nominations that were announced at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, including best picture, comedy and best actor nominations for Christian Bale’s nearly unrecognizable performance as the former vice president. It also earned nominations for Amy Adams’ Lynne Cheney, Sam Rockwell’s George W. Bush and for the screenplay and direction by McKay, the veteran comedy filmmaker who once skewered politicians as a “Saturday Night Live” writer.
For even the often-quirky selections of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a collection of 88 mostly lesser-known freelance film journalists, the strong support for “Vice” (which arrives in theaters on Dec. 25) was a surprise. Even its categorization of the film — a highly critical portrait of Cheney as a power-hungry, behind-the-scenes tyrant — as a comedy raised some eyebrows, as did Globes recent comedy selections “Get Out” and “The Martian.”
“It’s a movie that’s a lot like the times we live in. There’s part of it that’s absurdist and comedic and then there’s another part of it that’s darkly tragic and dramatic,” McKay said Thursday by phone from London. “But I do know I’m glad we’re in that category because we will take ‘Mary Poppins’ out. I’m not competitive with the other movies but I am competitive with ‘Mary Poppins.’ Dick Cheney is going for her.”
But it was far from a runaway win for “Vice” since the press association typically spreads its awards around. Oscar front-runners “A Star Is Born,” ”Green Book” and “The Favourite” trailed close behind with five nominations each.
On the television side, awards were even more widely dispersed among the likes of the spy thriller “The Americans,” Bill Hader’s hit-man comedy “Barry,” the Julia Roberts-led conspiracy thriller “Homecoming,” Chuck Lorre’s acting coach series “The Kominsky Method” and last year’s champ, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Leading all small-screen nominees with four nods was “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” the FX anthology series about the Italian fashion designer’s murder.
For the first time, FX bested heavyweights like HBO, Netflix and Amazon with a network-best 10 nods, even though the exalted second season of its “Atlanta” received only a single nod for Donald Glover’s acting.
Curiously, the Hollywood Foreign Press doesn’t consider foreign-language films for best film, so Alfonso Cuaron’s acclaimed family drama “Roma” was left out of the Globes’ top category. “Roma,” which is expected to earn Netflix its first best picture nomination at the Oscars, was still nominated for best screenplay, best director and best foreign language film.
For the first time, the Globes nominated three films directed by African-American filmmakers for best picture, drama: Ryan Coogler’s superhero sensation “Black Panther,” Spike Lee’s urgent white nationalist drama “BlacKkKlansman” and Barry Jenkins’ lyrical James Baldwin adaption “If Beale Street Could Talk.” The other nominees are “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the Freddie Mercury biopic.
All earned nods in other categories, too, including Rami Malek’s prosthetic tooth-aided performance as Mercury and the leading turn by John David Washington in “BlacKkKlansman,” who said his father, Denzel, woke him up for the nominations announcement.
“I had flashbacks when I was watching the (NFL) draft when they never called my name,” said Washington, a former football player. “When I heard them say my name, it happened in slow motion.”
While Sam Elliott’s supporting performance in “A Star Is Born” was unexpectedly overlooked , the Warner Bros. hit (which elected to compete on the more hefty drama side of the Globes despite its many songs) earned the expected nods for Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper (as both actor and director) and the song “Shallow.”
Up for best picture comedy alongside “Vice” are Yorgos Lanthimos’ wild palace power struggle “The Favourite,” Peter Farrelly’s divisive crowd-pleaser “Green Book,” the upcoming Disney sequel “Mary Poppins Returns” and the rom-com hit “Crazy Rich Asians.”
The Oscar path for both “Green Book” and “The Favourite” appeared to be solidified, with nods for all of their leads, some of whom are running in supporting categories: Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali for “Green Book” and Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone for “The Favourite.”
While some critics have taken issue with “Green Book” for relying on outdated racial tropes, the uplifting drama’s once flagging Oscar campaign has lately received a boost with both better ticket sales and accruing awards-seasonaccolades . Farrelly, best known for broader comedies with his brother, Bobby, like “Dumb and Dumber,” also received a best-director nod for his first dramatic film, edging out filmmakers like Lanthimos and Jenkins.
Nominees such as Constance Wu (“Crazy Rich Asians”), Regina King (“Beale Street”), Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Mary Poppins Returns”), Ali and Washington insured a diverse field of nominees. Three decades after last being included in the category for “Do the Right Thing,” Spike Lee was nominated for directing “BlacKkKlansman.” ”The first word that came to mind was ‘BOOM SHAKALAKA,’” Lee said in a statement.
But the Globes also failed to nominate any of the year’s acclaimed female filmmakers (among them Chloe Zhao, Tamara Jenkins, Marielle Heller) for best director, and none of the 10 best-picture nominees were helmed by a woman. At the previous Globes, presenter Natalie Portman pointedly introduced the “all-male” directing nominees.
Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man,” which has seen its awards hopes wane in recent weeks, failed to lift off, scoring neither a best-film nod, nor one for Ryan Gosling’s leading performance. (It did land nominations for Claire Foy and its score.) The morning was worse for Steve McQueen’s heist thriller “Widows,” which was shut out entirely.
Also left out was Ethan Hawke’s performance as an anguished pastor in “First Reformed” and Pawel Pawlikowski’s Polish stunner “Cold War,” his follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Ida.” (The nominees for best foreign language film alongside “Roma” were “Capernaum,” ”Girl,” ”Never Look Away” and “Shoplifters.”) Some of the TV snubs — “Atlanta,” ”This Is Us,” ”Better Call Saul” — were even more surprising.
But the Globes also handed out nominations to some up-and-comers, including Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased”), Timothee Chalamet (“Beautiful Boy”) and Elsie Fisher, the 15-year-old star of the coming-of-age tale “Eighth Grade.” ”WHAT,” said Fisher on Twitter . When reached by phone Thursday morning and told she was trending, Fisher — whose character is a little-liked YouTuber — replied “Hell yeah!”
The press association honored one old favorite: Robert Redford, who received his 10th Globe nomination for what he has said may (or may not ) be his final acting performance in “The Old Man & the Gun.” Redford was given the group’s Cecil B. DeMille achievement award in 1994.
Glenn Close likewise notched her 14th Globe nomination for her leading performance as a celebrated author in “The Wife.” Reached Thursday morning, Close said her voice was “gone” after two performances of the off-Broadway play “Mother of the Maid” the day before. But she hoped to celebrate.
“Maybe today it’ll be tequila,” said Close before thinking better of it. “I have a show tonight. And I’ll probably have to go back to sleep at some point today.”
In film and television, the nominations guaranteed the Globes will boast what it most craves for its famously frothy broadcast: stars. Among them: Julia Roberts (“Homecoming”), Amy Adams (“Sharp Objects”), Nicole Kidman (“Destroyer”), Hugh Grant (“A Very English Scandal”), Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“Patrick Melrose”), Emily Blunt (“Mary Poppins Returns”), Jim Carrey (“Kidding”) and Charlize Theron (“Tully”).
Though the major studios like Disney (“Black Panther,” ”Mary Poppins Returns,” ”Incredibles 2”), Warner Bros. (“A Star Is Born”) and Universal (“Green Book,” ”First Man”) are more in the thick of this year’s awards season than usual, indie outfits carried the day. Annapurna Pictures (“Vice,” ”Beale Street”) and Fox Searchlight (“The Favourite,” ”Can You Ever Forgive Me?) led with 10 nods apiece — especially welcome news for billionaire heiress Megan Ellison’s Annapurna, which struggled through upheaval and reported financial woes this fall.
Still, Disney could claim a kind of supremacy. Its soon-to-be-finalized acquisition of Fox would make its movie nominations tally 21 — a number that climbs higher still when you throw in Fox’s FX. The nod for its “Black Panther” also marked Marvel Studios’ first best-picture nomination at the Globes, a feat it’s hoping to repeat at the Academy Awards.
The ratings for last January’s broadcast, hosted by Seth Meyers and graced with an impassioned speech by Oprah Winfrey, dipped 5 percent with approximately 19 million viewers. As the first major awards show following the Harvey Weinstein revelations, the usually more frivolous ceremony had an atypical edge of seriousness. In a demonstration organized by the then-just-founded Time’s Up, women wore black on the red carpet .
Whether this year will return the Globes to their more lighthearted celebrations will rest partly with its unexpected pairing of Andy Samberg and “Killing Eve” star Sandra Oh, who’s also a nominee for best actress in a TV series drama. They were announced Wednesday as hosts of the Jan. 6 ceremony, to be broadcast live on NBC.
Associated Press Writers Lindsey Bahr and Andrew Dalton contributed to this report from Los Angeles.
Trump is 10th sitting president to attend Army-Navy game
By DEB RIECHMANN
Sunday, December 9
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Saturday was a day of politics and football for President Donald Trump, who announced the departure of his chief of staff, nominated a new top military adviser and then threw fist pumps at this year’s Army-Navy football game.
The commander in chief flew to Philadelphia for the 119th meeting in the storied rivalry between the service academies, and officiated the coin toss at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. Navy called “tails,” and that’s what it was when Trump’s flipped coin landed on the turf. Navy elected to kick off.
Before the game, parachute jumpers floated onto the field — the Army ones displaying the American and service flags and the Navy ones waving banners that said “Forged by the Sea” and “Fear the Goat” — a reference to the Navy’s mascot. Cheers rose up from the stands when each landed.
Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis stood silent during an invocation and a moment of silence for former President George H.W. Bush, who died recently died at age 94. Trump and Mattis both received loud cheers and applause from members of the two armed services. Military jets and helicopters flew overhead, and the teams stormed the field to a deafening roar.
Like previous commanders in chief, Trump switched sides at halftime in a show of impartiality. During the second half, he sat between Vice Adm. Ted Carter Jr. and Richard V. Spencer, secretary of the Navy.
He sat on the Army side first between Mark Esper, the secretary of the Army, and Army Gen. Mark Milley, the current chief of the Army and Trump’s nominee to succeed Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Trump tweeted the nomination Saturday before he left the White House.
As the theme from “Rocky” blared from speakers, Trump greeted soldiers and shook hands with Mike Thornton, a retired U.S. Navy Seal and recipient of the Medal of Honor. The first quarter was barely underway when Army scored the first touchdown of the game, prompting a thumb’s up and fist pumps from the president, who sat on the 50 yard line.
Before he left the White House, Trump told reporters that chief of staff John Kelly would step down at year’s end. The president was expected to soon name a replacement, and a White House official said Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, was Trump’s top choice.
Trump, who saw the Army-Navy contest in 2016 as president-elect, is the 10th sitting president to go to the game. President Theodore Roosevelt was the first, in 1901.
No. 22 Army (9-2) is in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1996. The Black Knights have won seven in a row and have defeated Navy (3-9) two straight years.
The series began in 1890, and Navy leads 60-51-7.
Trump has made a spate of personnel announcements. He announced Friday that he’ll nominate William Barr, who served as attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, to the same role in his administration. Trump also announced that State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert is his pick to replace Nikki Haley as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
After the first of the year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Nauert, who has been criticized for her thin diplomatic resume. Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, who is in line to be the next chairman of the committee, flew to the game on Air Force One with his wife, Vicki. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., also was aboard.
Trump picks Army chief of staff as next top military adviser
By DEB REICHMANN
Sunday, December 9
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Saturday that he wants a battle-hardened commander who oversaw troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to be the nation’s next top military adviser.
If confirmed by the Senate, Gen. Mark Milley, who has been chief of the Army since August 2015, would succeed Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford’s term doesn’t end until Oct. 1. Trump said the date of transition is “to be determined.”
Trump used an early morning tweet to reveal his choice. “I am thankful to both of these incredible men for their service to our Country!” he said. Later Saturday, as the president left the White House for the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, he called Milley “a great gentleman and a great patriot.”
Dunford is a former commandant of the Marine Corps and commander of coalition troops in Afghanistan. Milley commanded troops during several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dunford’s spokesman, Col. Patrick Ryder, said all indications are that Dunford will serve his full term. Ryder referred other questions to the White House. He said Dunford congratulated Milley on his nomination. “He has served with Gen. Milley in peacetime and in combat and has the highest regard for his leadership.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that Milley was “a battle-tested commander and Pentagon reformer who will be a worthy successor” to Dunford. That committee would consider a Joint Chiefs nomination.
The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee praised Milley for his “direct, insightful military assessments based upon his intellect and years of experience.” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, also noted that the Joint Chiefs chairman serves Congress as well as the president and defense secretary.
Trump’s decision, announced before leaving Washington for the annual Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, had caught some in the Pentagon by surprise when unofficial word spread Friday after he had tweeted that a succession announcement was coming.
Normally an announcement on a new chairman wouldn’t be expected until early next year. Officials had said the Air Force chief, Gen. David Goldfein, was also a strong contender for the job.
Milley is known as a charismatic, outgoing leader who has not been afraid to offer candid and sometimes blunt assessments to Congress. Last year he admonished the House Armed Services Committee for its inability to approve a defense budget, slamming it as “professional malpractice.” In 2016, he told lawmakers, in answer to a direct question, that women should also have to register for the draft now that they are allowed to serve in all combat jobs.
As the Army’s top leader, he helped shepherd the groundbreaking move of women into front-line infantry and other combat positions, while warning that it would take time to do it right. More recently, he has worked with his senior officers to reverse a shortfall in Army recruiting when the service fell far short of its annual goal this year.
He also played a role in one of the Army’s more contentious criminal cases. While serving as head of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Milley was assigned to review the case of former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who abandoned his post in Afghanistan and was held captive by the Taliban for five years.
Milley made the early decision to charge Bergdahl with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl was eventually found guilty, reduced in rank to private, dishonorably discharged and fined $10,000, but was spared any additional prison time.
A native of Winchester, Massachusetts, and a fervent supporter of the Boston Red Sox and other city teams, Milley received his Army commission from Princeton University in 1980. An infantry officer by training, he also commanded Special Forces units in a career that included deployments in the invasion of Panama in 1989, the multinational mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina to implement the Dayton Peace Accords, and the Iraq war.
The Milley move starts a series of military leadership changes in coming months, including successors in 2019 for Adm. John Richardson as the chief of Naval Operations, Gen. Robert Neller as commandant of the Marine Corps, and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Trump also will pick a replacement for Milley as Army chief.
Goldfein began his term as Air Force chief of staff in 2016, so wouldn’t be expected to step down until the summer of 2020.