Michael Cohen’s legal team admitted Wednesday that, after the FBI raided his home and office last year, he asked President Donald Trump’s lawyers about a potential pardon.
Now reporters are trying to nail down the specifics of exactly what happened in those discussions. Federal prosecutors could be looking into the topic, too. And President Trump himself claimed in a Friday morning tweet that Cohen “directly asked” him for a pardon, adding, “I said NO.”
Bad lawyer and fraudster Michael Cohen said under sworn testimony that he never asked for a Pardon. His lawyers totally contradicted him. He lied! Additionally, he directly asked me for a pardon. I said NO. He lied again! He also badly wanted to work at the White House. He lied!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 8, 2019
Cohen soon responded in a tweet disparaging “another set of lies” by Trump, but didn’t go into specifics.
The pardon discussions seem to have taken place after the April 2018 raids but over a month before Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, struck a plea deal with the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) last August.
What’s not yet entirely clear is whether this was mainly a case of Cohen seeking a pardon to no avail or whether he received an encouraging response from Trump’s team on the topic.
Perhaps most intriguingly, a recent ABC News report described a murky situation in which two lawyers “who claimed to be in close contact with Rudy Giuliani” reached out to Cohen and purportedly dropped hints about a pardon. The New York Times reported these discussions were about a “pre-pardon” for Cohen. One of the lawyers involved denied these accounts.
Now, on top of that, there’s Trump’s allegation that Cohen “directly” asked him for a pardon — though Trump has not yet explained when or where this happened.
In Cohen’s sworn testimony last week, he said he “never” asked for a pardon — but by his lawyer Lanny Davis’s admission, he did in fact authorize his previous attorney to “explore possibilities of a pardon.”
No pardon promise for Cohen seems to have materialized. But it’s worth understanding the details of what happened, because there has been much interest in how the president’s team uses the prospect of pardons to interfere with investigations. It’s already been one topic special counsel Robert Mueller has probed, and now it appears the SDNY prosecutors could be looking into it too.
Cohen was “pardon-curious” from April to June 2018
On April 9, 2018, the FBI raided Cohen’s office, residence, and hotel room, making it obvious that he was in very serious legal jeopardy.
For about two months after that, Cohen remained publicly defiant, and continued to proclaim his loyalty to Trump (whom he’d once said he’d “take a bullet for”). In mid-June, that suddenly changed, as word leaked out that Cohen was changing his legal team and “likely to cooperate” with prosecutors.
Behind the scenes, it’s now clear that before mid-June, there was at least some talk of a possible presidential pardon for Cohen. But how much of this talk started with Cohen, and how much came from Trump’s legal team, is a matter of dispute.
Cohen’s own lawyer and PR maven, Lanny Davis, admitted in a statement this week that Cohen had in fact authorized his previous attorney to “explore possibilities of a pardon” with Giuliani and other Trump lawyers, during that April to June 2018 period.
Additionally, Cohen privately testified to Congress that he spoke about a pardon with Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, according to the Washington Post. Sekulow denies this.
Now, there’s Trump’s claim that Cohen “directly” asked him for a pardon. If that actually happened, it probably took place around this time. However, Trump’s team has not yet presented any specifics or corroborating details for this claim.
In any cae, last week, Cohen publicly testified that he has “never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.” Even leaving aside Trump’s new claim, this statement seems to be quite misleading and arguably outright false. Davis’s attempt at clean-up tried to claim Cohen was only referring to “after July 2, 2018” when he said he never asked for a pardon, but Cohen actually said he “never” did.
Two attorneys may have talked pardons with Cohen
In any case, the most intriguing account of what took place during Cohen’s “pardon-curious” period came from ABC News’s Eliana Larramendia, James Hill, and Lauren Pearle, who offered the following new details.
- Weeks after the FBI raided Cohen’s office, in late April 2018, two New York attorneys who “claimed to be in close contact with Rudy Giuliani” reached out to Cohen.
- The attorneys said they were interested in representing Cohen, and urged him not to leave a joint defense agreement with Trump and his allies — essentially, not to flip on Trump.
- Per ABC’s sources, “there was an implicit message that if Cohen hired these lawyers, it could preserve or increase his chances of a pardon down the road.”
- Cohen did not hire the pair of attorneys. Afterward, they sent him a legal bill, which he didn’t pay.
- Cohen told the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York about all this, and they may be investigating it.
After the story was published, ABC News updated it to include the two attorneys’ names: Robert J. Costello and Jeffrey Citron. (Costello told them the story was “not accurate” but that he couldn’t comment further because of attorney-client privilege.)
Meanwhile, the New York Times’s Michael Schmidt, Ben Protess, and Maggie Haberman added more details on the situation:
- Costello sent Cohen “a cryptic email” saying “he had raised some issue of importance with” Giuliani, per their sources.
- The talks with Costello “centered on whether Mr. Cohen could be given a ‘pre-pardon’” by Trump before his anticipated indictment.
It is unclear what, exactly, a “pre-pardon” would have entailed, but President Gerald Ford famously gave an unconditional pardon to his predecessor Richard Nixon for any crimes committed while he was president.
There’s no concrete allegation of wrongdoing here, and a lot of hints and maybes. One obvious unanswered question is whether Costello and Citron truly were acting at Giuliani’s behest, or whether they were talking a big game in hopes of landing a high-profile client. Another is whether the “pre-pardon” talk went beyond wishful thinking on Cohen’s side.
No pardon promise seems to have materialized for Cohen — but this is a broader issue
Cohen did not hire Costello and Citron, and ended up striking plea deals with both SDNY and Mueller. He has also had a high-profile falling-out with Trump, and publicly attacked the president at length in his recent testimony.
So, while anything’s possible, it certainly seems unlikely that all these pardon talks resulted in Cohen receiving what he viewed as a credible pardon promise.
Still, it’s worth understanding the facts of what happened here to get a better sense of how the president’s team may use the possibility of pardons more broadly to interfere with investigations.
The New York Times has reported that in 2017, Trump’s then-lawyer John Dowd had talks with attorneys for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, in which he “broached the idea” of Trump pardoning them if they were to be charged by Mueller.
Flynn struck a plea deal with Mueller in December 2017, and committed to cooperate with investigators. Manafort, on the other hand, has fought the charges against him, and even after he eventually agreed to cooperate, Mueller’s team accused him of lying to them.
Trump’s use of pardons has drawn investigations’ interest, as potential obstruction of justice. In a recent court hearing, Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said Manafort could well be attempting to “augment his chances for a pardon.” Furthermore, a leaked list of questions Mueller wanted to ask Trump included one about “efforts” to “reach out to Mr. Flynn about seeking immunity or possible pardon.”
The recent ABC News story about Cohen suggests that SDNY prosecutors, too, could be looking into pardons. And when Cohen was asked at his testimony about his last communications with Trump’s team, he responded, “Unfortunately, this topic is something that’s being investigated right now by the Southern District of New York, and I’ve been asked by them not to discuss and not to talk about these issues.”
For more on the Mueller probe, follow Andrew Prokop on Twitter and check out Vox’s guide to the Trump-Russia investigation.
20 People Share Secrets From Their Jobs and Now We Can’t Sleep Well
Almost every job has its own secrets and nuances that very few people know. The people of different professions shared secrets from their jobs on Reddit and on Twitter and some of their stories may seriously change the way you see the world.
We at Bright Side, of course, don’t have any secrets like these, but as it turns out, not all other professions are as transparent as they seem to be.
- Truck driver: 9 out of 10 truck drivers travel with a smartphone on their windshield watching a TV-series. Stay away from big trucks.
- Disney World employee: There are secret tunnels underneath both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom (and probably other parks too) that enable the cast members to travel across the park pretty quickly and easily.
Comment from a park-goer: My father suffered a heart attack while visiting Epcot. I have never witnessed a faster medical response with professionals appearing from seemingly nowhere with just as fast transport through underground tunnels. It was a lifesaver. He was transported to a Disney hospital where he received great care after an emergency surgery and our stay was extended by 3 weeks.
- IT support people: (help desks, computer repair shops, Geek Squad, etc.) are mostly just better at Googling than you are.
- Employee at a flour factory: Wheat flour is not actually white. We use chlorine to make it look more attractive. This also increases the gluten level in flour, and this is why people are more gluten-sensitive today.
- Rescue team member: When you are a young lifeguard, you always have a radio with you 24/7. And you always listen to what happens in the city. If you are going, for example, to a birthday party in your own car and then you hear there is a fire on a nearby street, you turn the car and drive there! (I have my own gear in the car). @Moscow_Spasatel
- Olive oil factory employee: We had only one kind of oil but we put it in 27 different containers and sold it at different prices. Some of them were labeled as imported, some were called the highest quality oil. But it was the same oil in every single bottle.
- IT-service engineer: When someone is fixing your computer, they also often look through the data on your hard drive searching for something funny or embarrassing. So, before you give your computer to an IT service, clear your browser history, and copy all the important data to an external drive.
- Candle factory: Paraffin candles are dangerous and poisonous. Because I know what we added in there (even to the candles that say “100% paraffin”), I will never ever use candles again. If you need to use them for some reason, buy candles made of bee’s wax without any scents.
Sommelier: Wine isn’t vegan. It’s not even vegetarian in some cases. The filtering (refining) process uses egg whites, and sometimes isinglass (fish parts).
- Movie theater: A large bag of popcorn that costs the customer $5.99 (at the time) cost the movie theatre 6 cents to produce, including the butter, the kernels, the bag, the power used by the popper and the time it took the concession employee to fill up the bag and give it to the customer.
- Internet services: Most “subscription services” will raise their prices over time because they expect you to just live with it. This applies to phone bills, cable packages, internet service, insurance plans… Call up, politely complain about the price. Skip the canned “well the price has gone up because inflation/rising costs/age/end of promotion” and continue to politely say it’s too much, your budget can’t handle all your outgoings and you may need to drop the service. Either you are speaking to someone who can reduce the price, or they can put you through to a person authorized to reduce the price.
- Mechanic: If you want to go on vacation and you don’t know where to leave your car, get it to a mechanic. Many people do this. It’s ridiculously cheap and you can be away for a month! It is much more expensive to use parking lots. @Neformatws
- Pharmacist: I’ve worked at several factories that manufacture medications. And the rules were the same everywhere: if you dropped pills on the floor, just put them back into the bottle. So, maybe your medications are not as clean as you think.
- Librarian: The amount of toilet paper, random items, and bills used as bookmarks that are left in returned library books is unbelievable!
- Doctor: We spend so much time to be good at what we do, that we know almost nothing about other things.
Is there something about your job that is kept secret?
The spring equinox is Wednesday, March 20: 7 things to know about the first day of spring.
The vernal equinox is upon us: On Wednesday, March 20, both the Northern and Southern hemispheres will experience an equal amount of daylight. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of spring, with daylight hours continuing to lengthen until the summer solstice in June. For those south of the equator, it’s the beginning of autumn.
Technically speaking, the equinox occurs when the sun is directly in line with the equator. This will happen at 5:58 pm Eastern time on Wednesday. (A few hours later, at 9:43 pm, you can look out for the “supermoon”, the last one until 2020.)
Below is a short scientific guide to the most equal night of the year.
1) Why do we have an equinox?
The equinox, the seasons, and the changing length of daylight hours throughout the year are all due to one fact: The Earth spins on a tilted axis.
The tilt — possibly caused by a massive object hitting Earth billions of years ago — means that for half the year, the North Pole is pointed toward the sun (as in the picture below). For the other half of the year, the South Pole gets more light. It’s what gives us seasons.
Here’s a time-lapse demonstration of the phenomenon shot over the course of a whole year from space. In the video, you can see how the line separating day from night swings back and forth from the poles during the year.
And here’s yet another cool way to visualize the seasons. In 2013, a resident of Alberta, Canada, took this pinhole camera photograph of the sun’s path throughout the year and shared it with the astronomy website EarthSky. You can see the dramatic change in the arc of the sun from December to June.
This is a 6 month pinhole photo taken from solstice to solstice, in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. We are one of the sunniest cities in Canada, and this shows it nicely.
Posted by Ian Hennes on Saturday, December 21, 2013
(You can easily make a similar image at home. All you need is a can, photo paper, some tape, and a pin. Instructions here.)
2) How many hours of daylight will I get Wednesday?
Equinox literally means “equal night.” And during the equinox, most places on Earth will see approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.
But not every place will experience the exact same amount of daylight. For instance, on Wednesday, Fairbanks, Alaska, will see 12 hours and 15 minutes of daylight. Key West, Florida, will see 12 hours and six minutes. The differences are due to how the sunlight gets refracted (bent) as it enters Earth’s atmosphere at different latitudes.
That daylight is longer than 12 hours on the equinox is also due to how we commonly measure the length of a day: from the first hint of the sun peeking over the horizon in the morning to the very last glimpse of it before it falls below the horizon in the evening. Because the sun takes some time to rise and set, it adds some extra daylight minutes.
Check out TimeAndDate.com to see how many hours of sunlight you’ll get during the equinox.
3) Over the course of the entire year, does every spot on Earth get an equal number of daylight hours?
In the summer months, the northernmost latitudes get a lot of daylight. Above the Arctic Circle, during the summer, there’s 24 hours of daylight. In the winter, the Arctic Circle is plunged into constant darkness.
So does this mean the number of daylight hours — in total, over the course of the year — equal out to places where the seasonal difference is less extreme?
The answer to this question is somewhat surprising: Roughly speaking, everywhere on Earth sees a similar number of daylight hours every year. But the equator actually gets slightly fewer daylight hours than the poles.
As astronomer Tony Flanders explained for Sky & Telescope magazine, sunlight at the poles gets refracted more than sunlight at the equator. That refracting results in the visible disc of the sun being slightly stretched out (think of when the full moon is near the horizon and looks huge — it’s being refracted too). And the refracted, stretched-out sun takes slightly longer to rise and set. Flanders estimated that the equator spends around 50.5 percent of its year in sunlight, while the poles spend between 51.5 and 53 percent of their years in sunlight.
And, of course, this is how much sunlight these areas could potentially receive if the weather were always perfectly clear; it’s not how much sunlight they actually see, nor the strength of the sunlight that hits their ground. “Where are the places on Earth that receive the largest amount of solar radiation?” is a slightly different question, the answer to which can be seen on the chart below.
4) Can I really only balance an egg on its tip during on the equinox?
Perhaps you were told as a child that on the equinox, it’s easier to balance an egg vertically on a flat surface than on other days of the year.
The practice originated in China as a tradition on the first day of spring in the Chinese lunar calendar in early February. According to the South China Morning Post, “The theory goes that at this time of year the moon and earth are in exactly the right alignment, the celestial bodies generating the perfect balance of forces needed to make it possible.”
This is a myth. The amount of sunlight we get during the day has no power over the gravitational pull of the Earth or our abilities to balance things upon it. You can balance an egg on its end any day of the year (if you’re good at balancing things).
5) Is there an ancient monument that does something cool during the equinox?
During the winter and summer solstices, crowds flock to Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. During the solstices, the sun either rises or sets in line with the layout of the 5,000-year-old-monument. And while some visit Stonehenge for the spring equinox too, the real place to be is in Mexico.
That’s because on the equinox, the pyramid at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula puts on a wondrous show. Built by the Mayans around 1,000 years ago, the pyramid is designed to cast a shadow on the equinox outlining the body of Kukulkan, a feathered snake god. A serpent-head statue is located at the bottom of the pyramid, and as the sun sets on the day of the equinox, the sunlight and shadow show the body of the serpent joining with the head.
This is easier to see in a video. Check it out below.
6) Are there equinoxes on other planets?
Yes! All the planets in the solar system rotate on a tilted axis and therefore have seasons. Some of these tilts are minor (like Mercury, which is tilted at 2.11 degrees). But others are more like the Earth (tilted at 23.5 degrees) or are even more extreme (Uranus is tilted 98 degrees!).
Below, see a beautiful composite image of Saturn on its equinox captured by the Cassini spacecraft (RIP) in 2009. The gas giant is tilted 27 degrees relative to the sun, and equinoxes on the planet are less frequent than on Earth. Saturn only sees an equinox about once every 15 years (because it takes Saturn 29 years to complete one orbit around the sun).
During Saturn’s equinox, its rings become unusually dark. That’s because these rings are only around 30 feet thick. And when light hits them head on, there’s not much surface area to reflect.
7) I clicked this article accidentally and really just want a mind-blowing picture of the sun
The image above was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a spacecraft launched in 2010 to better understand the sun.
This past summer, NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will come within 4 million miles of the surface of the sun (much closer than any spacecraft has been before). The goal is to study the sun’s atmosphere, weather, and magnetism and figure out the mystery of why the sun’s corona (its atmosphere) is much hotter than its surface. Still, even several million miles away, the probe will have to withstand temperatures of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s essential to understand the sun: It’s nothing to mess with. Brad Plumer wrote for Vox about what happens when the sun erupts and sends space weather our way to wreak havoc on Earth.
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