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Report: Tabloid Owner Linked to Trump, Cohen Granted Immunity

U.S. federal prosecutors have reportedly granted immunity to the owner of a tabloid that is a central focus of the investigation into President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. 

The CEO of the company that owns the National Enquirer, David Pecker, met with prosecutors to describe his involvement with Cohen, Trump, and the hush money that was paid to two women before the 2016 presidential election, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the matter.

As a result of the information provided at the meeting, Pecker was granted immunity and will not be criminally charged, the Journal said.

Cohen reached a plea agreement with prosecutors earlier this week after detailing the tabloid’s role in payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to remain silent about alleged affairs with Trump.

Court papers showed how Pecker offered to help Trump prevent the publication of negative stories about Trump during the campaign.  The documents said Pecker “offered to help deal with negative stories about (Trump’s) relationships with women … by identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.”

Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight criminal charges, including campaign-finance violations that are linked to the payments.

Pecker, who owns the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., is a long-time friend of Cohen’s.  

The Wall Street Journal report said at Cohen’s urging the Enquirer started promoting a potential Trump presidential candidacy in 2010 and referred readers to a Trump-friendly website that Cohen helped develop.  Former staffers said the tabloid began questioning President Barack Obama’s birthplace and his U.S. citizenship, a campaign Trump promoted for several years.

The Enquirer endorsed Trump for president in 2016, the first time it had officially supported a candidate. 

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

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Trump Predicts His Impeachment Would Trigger Stock Market Crash

U.S. President Donald Trump is speaking publicly about the possibility of his impeachment.

“If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash,” Trump remarked in a television interview from the White House that aired Thursday morning on the Fox News Channel.

“I think everybody would be very poor because without this thinking you would see numbers that you wouldn’t believe in reverse,” Trump said pointing to his head.

The president then questioned how he could be impeached when has “done a great job.”

Impeachment talk has increased over the past two days after Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convicted of eight counts of fraud by a federal court jury in Virginia.

The president’s long-time attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, entered a plea in federal court in New York, admitting he paid hush money during the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign to two women who had affairs with Trump and that he did so at the candidate’s direction.

Trump, on Twitter and in the taped television interview, has accused Cohen of saying things that are not true in order to gain favorable treatment from prosecutors.

“For 30, 40 years I’ve been watching flippers,” the president said in the interview. “Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go.”

Some political pundits suggest Cohen’s admission to campaign finance violations and implicating the president could be grounds for impeachment, but others are expressing skepticism.

What is certain is that interest in the topic increased tremendously following Tuesday’s dramatic courtroom developments. Queries to the top global search engine, Google, that included the word “impeachment” spiked.

But there is almost no chance at present that lawmakers will pursue impeachment because both houses of Congress are in the hands of Trump’s Republican party, which with few exceptions remains loyal to the president.

If the opposition Democrats are able to gain control of the House of Representatives in the November mid-term election, though, they would be in a position to initiate such proceedings against Trump.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday impeachment is the only message congressional Democrats “seem to have going into the midterms.”

Democratic party leaders seem to be cautious, however, about embracing impeachment as a campaign rallying theme.

“If there’s evidence that the president should be impeached, let that emerge,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“I think Republicans would like us to run with the subject of impeachment,” added Pelosi, speaking to reporters in San Francisco. “Let me say this about impeachment: you can’t be political about it. You can’t be political in doing it. And you can’t be political in not doing it. We have to seek the truth.”

Some party strategists express caution that too much talk on the campaign trail ahead of this November’s election could alienate independent voters and rally Trump’s base.

Midterms generally swing in favor of the party out of power and usually generate lower voter turnout than for presidential elections.

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Facebook Bans 2nd Quiz App on Concerns User Data Misused

Facebook banned a quiz app from its platform for refusing an inspection and concerns that data on as many as 4 million users was misused.

 

The social media company said Wednesday that it took action against the myPersonality app after it found user information was shared with researchers and companies “with only limited protections in place.”

Facebook said it would notify the app’s users that their data was misused. It’s only the second time Facebook has banned an app, after it blocked one linked to political data mining firm Cambridge Analytica that sparked a privacy scandal.

 

The company said myPersonality was “mainly active” prior to 2012, and it wasn’t clear why Facebook was taking action now.

 

The app was created in 2007 by researcher David Stillwell and allowed users to take a personality questionnaire and get feedback on the results.

 

The Cambridge Analytica scandal sparked a wider investigation in March by Facebook, which said it had investigated thousands of apps and suspended more than 400 apps over data sharing concerns.

 

Cambridge Analytica obtained data on up to 87 million users. It was collected by an app, “This Is Your Digital Life,” created by researcher Aleksandr Kogan, which Facebook banned after it found out.

 

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Facebook Bans 2nd Quiz App on Concerns User Data Misused

Facebook banned a quiz app from its platform for refusing an inspection and concerns that data on as many as 4 million users was misused.

 

The social media company said Wednesday that it took action against the myPersonality app after it found user information was shared with researchers and companies “with only limited protections in place.”

Facebook said it would notify the app’s users that their data was misused. It’s only the second time Facebook has banned an app, after it blocked one linked to political data mining firm Cambridge Analytica that sparked a privacy scandal.

 

The company said myPersonality was “mainly active” prior to 2012, and it wasn’t clear why Facebook was taking action now.

 

The app was created in 2007 by researcher David Stillwell and allowed users to take a personality questionnaire and get feedback on the results.

 

The Cambridge Analytica scandal sparked a wider investigation in March by Facebook, which said it had investigated thousands of apps and suspended more than 400 apps over data sharing concerns.

 

Cambridge Analytica obtained data on up to 87 million users. It was collected by an app, “This Is Your Digital Life,” created by researcher Aleksandr Kogan, which Facebook banned after it found out.

 

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US, China Exchange New Round of Tariffs in Trade War

A new set of tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by the United States and China on each other’s goods took effect Thursday.

The U.S. announced earlier this month that it would impose 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods, on top of the 25-percent tariffs it imposed on $34 billion worth of Chinese products in early July. Beijing has followed suit in each case with an identical percentage of tariffs in retaliation.

China’s commerce ministry issued a statement Thursday criticizing the U.S. tariffs as a violation of World Trade Organization rules, and says it will file a legal challenge under the WTO’s dispute resolution mechanism.

The new round of tariffs took effect the day after delegations from both nations met in Washington for first of two days of talks aimed at resolving the dispute, the first such formal discussions since June.

U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview this week he does not expect much progress from the discussions.

When asked about the issue at Wednesday’s news briefing by VOA, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “As you said, these conversations are continuing. I don’t have any announcements on them. They’re ongoing. Certainly, what we’d like to see is better trade deals for the United States. he president wants to see free, fair, and more reciprocal trade between other countries, particularly with China, and we’re going to continue in those conversations.”

The Trump administration is demanding that Beijing change its practice of heavily subsidizing its technology sector and open its markets to more U.S. goods.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office on Monday began six days of public hearings on the president’s plans to impose tariffs on a wider array of Chinese imports, affecting an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Economists warn that the trade war between the world’s biggest economies would reduce global economic growth by around 0.5 percent through 2020.

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US, China Exchange New Round of Tariffs in Trade War

A new set of tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by the United States and China on each other’s goods took effect Thursday.

The U.S. announced earlier this month that it would impose 25 percent tariffs on $16 billion worth of Chinese goods, on top of the 25-percent tariffs it imposed on $34 billion worth of Chinese products in early July. Beijing has followed suit in each case with an identical percentage of tariffs in retaliation.

China’s commerce ministry issued a statement Thursday criticizing the U.S. tariffs as a violation of World Trade Organization rules, and says it will file a legal challenge under the WTO’s dispute resolution mechanism.

The new round of tariffs took effect the day after delegations from both nations met in Washington for first of two days of talks aimed at resolving the dispute, the first such formal discussions since June.

U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview this week he does not expect much progress from the discussions.

When asked about the issue at Wednesday’s news briefing by VOA, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “As you said, these conversations are continuing. I don’t have any announcements on them. They’re ongoing. Certainly, what we’d like to see is better trade deals for the United States. he president wants to see free, fair, and more reciprocal trade between other countries, particularly with China, and we’re going to continue in those conversations.”

The Trump administration is demanding that Beijing change its practice of heavily subsidizing its technology sector and open its markets to more U.S. goods.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office on Monday began six days of public hearings on the president’s plans to impose tariffs on a wider array of Chinese imports, affecting an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

Economists warn that the trade war between the world’s biggest economies would reduce global economic growth by around 0.5 percent through 2020.

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Study: Many Teens – and Parents – Feel Tethered to Phones

Parents lament their teenagers’ noses constantly in their phones, but they might want to take stock of their own screen time habits. 

A study out Wednesday from the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of parents are concerned about the amount of time their teenage children spend in front of screens, while more than a third expressed concern about their own screen time. 

Meanwhile, more than half of teens said they often or sometimes find their parents or caregivers to be distracted when the teens are trying to have a conversation with them. The study calls teens’ relationship with their phones at times “hyperconnected” and notes that nearly three-fourths check messages or notifications as soon as they wake up. Parents do the same, but at a lower if still substantial rate – 57 percent. 

Big tech companies face a growing backlash against the addictive nature of their gadgets and apps, the endless notifications and other features created to keep people tethered to their screens.

Many teens are trying to do something about it: 52 percent said they have cut back on the time they spend on their phones and 57 percent did the same with social media. 

Experts say parents have a big role in their kids’ screen habits and setting a good example is a big part of it. 

“Kids don’t always do what we say but they do as we do,” said Donald Shifrin, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who was not involved in the Pew study. “Parents are the door that kids will walk through on their way to the world.” 

The study surveyed 743 U.S. teens and 1,058 U.S. parents of teens from March 7 to April 10. The margin of error is 4.5 percentage points. 

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Study: Many Teens – and Parents – Feel Tethered to Phones

Parents lament their teenagers’ noses constantly in their phones, but they might want to take stock of their own screen time habits. 

A study out Wednesday from the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of parents are concerned about the amount of time their teenage children spend in front of screens, while more than a third expressed concern about their own screen time. 

Meanwhile, more than half of teens said they often or sometimes find their parents or caregivers to be distracted when the teens are trying to have a conversation with them. The study calls teens’ relationship with their phones at times “hyperconnected” and notes that nearly three-fourths check messages or notifications as soon as they wake up. Parents do the same, but at a lower if still substantial rate – 57 percent. 

Big tech companies face a growing backlash against the addictive nature of their gadgets and apps, the endless notifications and other features created to keep people tethered to their screens.

Many teens are trying to do something about it: 52 percent said they have cut back on the time they spend on their phones and 57 percent did the same with social media. 

Experts say parents have a big role in their kids’ screen habits and setting a good example is a big part of it. 

“Kids don’t always do what we say but they do as we do,” said Donald Shifrin, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, who was not involved in the Pew study. “Parents are the door that kids will walk through on their way to the world.” 

The study surveyed 743 U.S. teens and 1,058 U.S. parents of teens from March 7 to April 10. The margin of error is 4.5 percentage points. 

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Democrats Quick to Denounce Legal Woes of Trump’s Former Aides

U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday criticized the integrity and legal skills of his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, saying on Twitter that anyone looking for a good lawyer should not retain the services of Cohen. Trump was making his first public statements about his former personal attorney, who a day earlier implicated Trump in a campaign cover-up and faces four to five years in prison when sentenced in December. 

Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to campaign finance law violations as well as bank and tax fraud. Cohen’s pleas came after he testified that Trump directed him to commit a crime by paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign to influence the 2016 election. Both women said they had affairs with Trump before the election. Trump denies involvement.

At about the same time Cohen pleaded guilty, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of eight of 18 bank and tax fraud charges. The charges against Manafort were brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the election and potential obstruction of justice.

The charges against Manafort were unrelated to the core of Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor.

Manafort’s conviction, however, vindicates Mueller’s work as investigators continue to explore potential violations by Trump and those associated with him. Mueller also submitted evidence in the Cohen case to federal prosecutors in New York. 

Trump questioned the integrity of the Manafort case, noting a verdict “could not even be decided” on the 10 remaining charges against his former campaign chief, and again called the Mueller probe a “Witch Hunt!”

Eric Holder, the attorney general under President Barack Obama’s administration, said on Twitter, “In spite of spurious, unjustified and unprecedented attacks, people in federal law enforcement did their jobs and, as usual, did them well. Guilty plea. Guilty verdict. Criminal acts. This is not a witch hunt.”

Despite the widening criminal investigation that raises questions about Trump’s own legal jeopardy and threatens to hurt his Republican Party’s chances in the November mid-term elections, there were no immediate calls for Trump’s impeachment and Republican lawmakers have remained mostly silent.

Democrats, however, quickly reacted to the Cohen and Manafort cases, maintaining they strengthened their belief the Trump White House is beset by scandal.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a frequent Trump critic and possible presidential contender in 2020, called for legislation to protect Mueller instead of pursuing impeachment proceedings.

“I think that what Congress needs to do right now is we need to make sure that special prosecutor Mueller is fully protected from being fired by Donald Trump,” Warren said during a CNN interview.

The cases have prompted Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to call on Republicans to delay Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, describing the developments as “a game changer.” 

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said Cohen’s “admitted crimes helped Donald Trump win the election. And going forward, if the president were to pardon Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort, I think that would constitute a significant attack on the rule of law in America.” 

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement denouncing Trump, but did not call for impeachmentment, saying it is “not a priority” and that Democrats should instead focus on the president’s actions and allow Mueller to complete his investigation.

The senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, is urging committee chairman Bob Goodlatte to hold immediate hearings on Trump’s repeated attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI. Nadler said Cohen’s guilty plea means “the president of the United States is now directly implicated in a criminal conspiracy.”

Democratic Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro said, “The American people deserve answers regarding the President’s role in these corrupt and criminal actions.”

Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani defended his client, saying, “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen. It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”

Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said in a series of television interviews Tuesday Cohen has information “that would be of interest” to Mueller. Davis said on MSNBC Cohen has details on the  “computer crime of hacking” and “whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”

Davis added that Mueller “will have a great deal of interest in what Michael has to say.”

Five Trump associates have either pleaded guilty or been charged with crimes since Trump assumed the presidency, including his former national security adviser, his deputy campaign chairman and an ex-campaign policy adviser.

Trump’s loyalists reiterated the White House’s position that a sitting president cannot be indicted, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that was issued in 2000. Trump’s attorneys have said Mueller would comply with the ruling, but Mueller’s office has not independently confirmed it.

The long-term impact of the cases will likely depend on how they affect voter turnout in November. A string of Democratic victories would limit Trump’s ability to achieve legislative victories and increase the risk of calls for his impeachment.

Some analysts, like Andy Smith of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, believe Trump may be able to capitalize on Tuesday’s political setbacks by convincing his core supporters he is under siege. 

“In mid-term elections, the president’s party tends to be less interested and less motivated to vote. But one thing that will motivate people to get out and vote is if they believe the party is being attacked unfairly,” said Smith.

The cases are unlikely to erode support from Trump’s political base or the Republican establishment, according to Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“I don’t think there’s any change at all,” he said. “That’s the amazing part of it. The Trump base and virtually the entire Republican Party could care less. The polls will bear me out.”

Josh McGrew traveled more than 85 kilometers (50 miles) from Huntington, West Virginia to support Trump at a campaign rally Tuesday night in Charleston, just hours after Cohen’s guilty pleas and Manafort’s convictions. He labeled the investigations a smear campaign and said his support for Trump remained as strong as ever.

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Democrats Quick to Denounce Legal Woes of Trump’s Former Aides

U.S. President Donald Trump Wednesday criticized the integrity and legal skills of his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, saying on Twitter that anyone looking for a good lawyer should not retain the services of Cohen. Trump was making his first public statements about his former personal attorney, who a day earlier implicated Trump in a campaign cover-up and faces four to five years in prison when sentenced in December. 

Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to campaign finance law violations as well as bank and tax fraud. Cohen’s pleas came after he testified that Trump directed him to commit a crime by paying hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign to influence the 2016 election. Both women said they had affairs with Trump before the election. Trump denies involvement.

At about the same time Cohen pleaded guilty, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of eight of 18 bank and tax fraud charges. The charges against Manafort were brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the election and potential obstruction of justice.

The charges against Manafort were unrelated to the core of Mueller’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Trump’s favor.

Manafort’s conviction, however, vindicates Mueller’s work as investigators continue to explore potential violations by Trump and those associated with him. Mueller also submitted evidence in the Cohen case to federal prosecutors in New York. 

Trump questioned the integrity of the Manafort case, noting a verdict “could not even be decided” on the 10 remaining charges against his former campaign chief, and again called the Mueller probe a “Witch Hunt!”

Eric Holder, the attorney general under President Barack Obama’s administration, said on Twitter, “In spite of spurious, unjustified and unprecedented attacks, people in federal law enforcement did their jobs and, as usual, did them well. Guilty plea. Guilty verdict. Criminal acts. This is not a witch hunt.”

Despite the widening criminal investigation that raises questions about Trump’s own legal jeopardy and threatens to hurt his Republican Party’s chances in the November mid-term elections, there were no immediate calls for Trump’s impeachment and Republican lawmakers have remained mostly silent.

Democrats, however, quickly reacted to the Cohen and Manafort cases, maintaining they strengthened their belief the Trump White House is beset by scandal.

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a frequent Trump critic and possible presidential contender in 2020, called for legislation to protect Mueller instead of pursuing impeachment proceedings.

“I think that what Congress needs to do right now is we need to make sure that special prosecutor Mueller is fully protected from being fired by Donald Trump,” Warren said during a CNN interview.

The cases have prompted Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to call on Republicans to delay Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, describing the developments as “a game changer.” 

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said Cohen’s “admitted crimes helped Donald Trump win the election. And going forward, if the president were to pardon Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort, I think that would constitute a significant attack on the rule of law in America.” 

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement denouncing Trump, but did not call for impeachmentment, saying it is “not a priority” and that Democrats should instead focus on the president’s actions and allow Mueller to complete his investigation.

The senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, is urging committee chairman Bob Goodlatte to hold immediate hearings on Trump’s repeated attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI. Nadler said Cohen’s guilty plea means “the president of the United States is now directly implicated in a criminal conspiracy.”

Democratic Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro said, “The American people deserve answers regarding the President’s role in these corrupt and criminal actions.”

Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani defended his client, saying, “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen. It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”

Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said in a series of television interviews Tuesday Cohen has information “that would be of interest” to Mueller. Davis said on MSNBC Cohen has details on the  “computer crime of hacking” and “whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”

Davis added that Mueller “will have a great deal of interest in what Michael has to say.”

Five Trump associates have either pleaded guilty or been charged with crimes since Trump assumed the presidency, including his former national security adviser, his deputy campaign chairman and an ex-campaign policy adviser.

Trump’s loyalists reiterated the White House’s position that a sitting president cannot be indicted, citing a Justice Department legal opinion that was issued in 2000. Trump’s attorneys have said Mueller would comply with the ruling, but Mueller’s office has not independently confirmed it.

The long-term impact of the cases will likely depend on how they affect voter turnout in November. A string of Democratic victories would limit Trump’s ability to achieve legislative victories and increase the risk of calls for his impeachment.

Some analysts, like Andy Smith of the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, believe Trump may be able to capitalize on Tuesday’s political setbacks by convincing his core supporters he is under siege. 

“In mid-term elections, the president’s party tends to be less interested and less motivated to vote. But one thing that will motivate people to get out and vote is if they believe the party is being attacked unfairly,” said Smith.

The cases are unlikely to erode support from Trump’s political base or the Republican establishment, according to Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“I don’t think there’s any change at all,” he said. “That’s the amazing part of it. The Trump base and virtually the entire Republican Party could care less. The polls will bear me out.”

Josh McGrew traveled more than 85 kilometers (50 miles) from Huntington, West Virginia to support Trump at a campaign rally Tuesday night in Charleston, just hours after Cohen’s guilty pleas and Manafort’s convictions. He labeled the investigations a smear campaign and said his support for Trump remained as strong as ever.

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