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Michael Cohen has a rough few days; the small island of Vanuatu denies some big potential news.
Trump’s lawyer could use a lawyer
- President Donald Trump’s alleged history with women is coming back to haunt him. And his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen is currently taking the fall. [Reuters]
- On Monday, FBI agents raided Cohen’s office and hotel room to search for records about payments to two women — Karen McDougal and Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels — who say they had affairs with Trump. The search warrant was carried out by the public corruption unit of the Manhattan federal attorney’s office under a suspicion of fraud and campaign finance violations. [NYT / Michael D. Shear, Matt Apuzzo, Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon LaFraniere, and Maggie Haberman]
- During the raid, the FBI seized emails, tax documents, and business records, including ones pertaining to a $130,000 payment to Daniels in exchange for her signing a nondisclosure agreement agreeing not to talk about the alleged affair with Trump (Daniels has since gone public). [NYT / Matt Apuzzo]
- The investigation was prompted by a recommendation from special counsel Robert Mueller, who tipped off the US attorney for the Southern District of New York. [Washington Post / Michael Kranish]
- Cohen’s name has been in the news since he admitted to paying Daniels $130,000 of his own money in exchange for her silence. [Vox / Jen Kirby]
- The FBI is also looking for information related to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who says she had an almost year-long affair with Trump shortly after the birth of his son Barron in 2006, and was allegedly paid $150,000 worth of hush money by the National Enquirer’s parent company, whose CEO is a friend of Trump’s. [CNN / Gloria Borger, Pamela Brown, and Eli Watkins]
- The president is, unsurprisingly, enraged. At the beginning of a meeting with military and national security advisers to discuss Syria, Trump said about the investigation: “It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt. I’ve been saying it for a long time.” [NPR / Jessica Taylor and Ryan Lucas]
- And (in a very roundabout way), the president threatened Mueller, by saying that other people have told him to fire the special counsel. That has Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike nervous, although legislation protecting Mueller is stalling in the Senate. [Politico / Burgess Everett, Elana Schor, and Kyle Cheney]
A Chinese military base for the island of Vanuatu?
- Is China about to establish a military base on the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu? It depends whom you ask. [Reuters]
- According to a report by Australia’s Fairfax Media published on Monday, the governments of China and Vanuatu have held preliminary discussions about this possibility. [Quartz / Steve Mollman]
- But on Tuesday, both nations vehemently denied the reports. Vanuatu’s foreign minister, Ralph Regenvanu, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that no talks had taken place. China’s defense ministry implied the report was false. [BBC]
- A Chinese military presence on Vanuatu would have major implications for the island’s neighbors in the South Pacific, putting Chinese warships less than 1,553 miles from Australia’s coast. [CNN / Steve George and Ben Westcott]
- Many reptiles and amphibians sold in pet stores are actually snatched from the wild, and not bred in captivity as international law requires. [NYT / Rachel Nuwer]
- What does an 85,000-year-old fossilized finger bone the size of a Lego have to tell about the course of human history? Plenty, apparently. [Washington Post / Meagan Flynn]
- When it comes to both life expectancy and disability in the United State, there’s huge disparity from state to state. [Atlantic / Olga Khazan]
- Eyebrows: You’ve seen how frightening celebrities look without them, but they don’t only exist for aesthetics. [Mental Floss / Shaunacy Ferro]
“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.” [Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress on Cambridge Analytica, data security, and election meddling / The Verge]