Court filings Friday from prosecutors in New York and special counsel Robert Mueller laid out why Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, deserve prison time.
The filings say Cohen made illegal hush money payments to two women — Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal — ahead of the 2016 election to keep them quiet about their sexual encounters with Trump.
Federal prosecutors said Cohen made the payments in “coordination with and the direction of” Trump.
The filings also disclose an attempt by a Russian to wield influence in the campaign.
In one filing, Mueller details how Cohen spoke to a Russian who “claimed to be a ‘trusted person’ in the Russian Federation who could offer the campaign ‘political synergy’ and ‘synergy on a government level.’”
Trump has denied any collusion with Russia, and Russia has denied any interference in the U.S. presidential campaign.
The filings also exposed lies told by Manafort during interviews with prosecutors and the FBI.
Manafort told “multiple discernible lies,” the court documents said, including about his communications with a political consultant with alleged ties to Russian intelligence and about interacting with Trump administration officials after Manafort was indicted in 2017.
While Trump Tweeted “Totally clears the President. Thank you!” after the court filings, the documents suggest that Trump may have known more about campaign and business contacts with the Russians than he has admitted. (VOA)
President Donald Trump said Friday his administration will pursue raising the age to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 in its upcoming plans to combat youth vaping.
Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details.
“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” said Trump, speaking outside the White House.
Currently the minimum age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product is 18, under federal law. But more than one-third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age to 21.
A federal law raising the purchase age would require congressional action.
Administration officials were widely expected to release plans this week for removing virtually all flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Those products are blamed for soaring rates of underage use by U.S. teenagers.
However, no details have yet appeared, leading vaping critics to worry that the administration is backing away from its original plan.
Trump resisted any specifics on the scope of the restrictions.
“We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working — there are some pretty good aspects,” Trump said.
Underage vaping has reached what health officials call epidemic levels. In the latest government survey, 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month.
Fruit, candy, dessert and other sweet vaping flavors have been targeted because of their appeal to underage users.
On Thursday, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker, announced it would voluntarily pull its mint-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. That decision followed new research that Juul’s mint is the top choice for many high school students who vape.
With the removal of mint, Juul only sells two flavors: tobacco and menthol.
Vaping critics say menthol must be a part of the flavor ban to prevent teens who currently use mint from switching over.
Juul and other tobacco companies have lobbied in support of a federal “Tobacco 21” law to reverse teen use of both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products. The effort also has broad bipartisan support in Congress, including a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
The logic for hiking the purchase age for cigarettes and other products is clear: Most underage teens who use e-cigarettes or tobacco get it from older friends. Raising the minimum age to 21 is expected to limit the supply of those products in U.S. schools.
Delaying access to cigarettes is also expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades.
Still, anti-tobacco groups have insisted that any “Tobacco 21” law must be accompanied by a ban on flavors, which they say are the primary reason young people use e-cigarettes. (VOA)