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February 14, 2018

On Tuesday night, Michael Cohen, a longtime personal lawyer for President Trump, made the startling admission that he had, after all, paid $130,000 to adult film actress Stephanie "Stormy Daniels" Clifford right before the 2016 election. The Wall Street Journal reported in January that Cohen had paid Daniels $130,000, through a company set up for that purpose, to stay quiet about an extramarital affair she was telling reporters she had with Trump in 2006.

"Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly," Cohen said, not ruling out that Trump himself had reimbursed him. On Tuesday night, Fox News national correspondent Ed Henry tackled the big question: "This might raise more questions about possible hush money, since the president and the porn star have insisted nothing happened, so why pay her? Well Cohen just told me in a phone call, 'Even if something is untrue, it can be damaging.' His goal all along was to protect the president."

On MSNBC, Brian Williams asked legal analyst Jill Wine-Banks why this would "be important and germane enough to re-inject the porn star story back into the news cycle?" Using campaign money "would have been an improper use of campaign funding," Wine-Banks said. "But, first of all, all of Michael Cohen's money comes from the Trump Organization, so it's basically Trump money no matter what. And the admission that they're paying a porn star says something: Why would they pay her? It's because she could have possibly blackmailed the president." Blackmail from a former paramour or Russians would be "a serious problem," she added.

Even if Cohen used his own money, campaign finance experts tell the Journal, he "likely violated election rules because it wasn't reported to the Federal Election Commission." And Cohen's admission that he made the payment to protect Trump suggests he was aiding the Trump campaign. Peter Weber

12:59 p.m.

Friday's federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, is unconstitutional will be upheld by the Supreme Court, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller forecast on Face the Nation Sunday.

Miller conceded there would be no immediate change in ACA administration nationwide, but he answered CBS host Margaret Brennan in the affirmative when she summarized his comments as "predicting that this goes to the Supreme Court and that the Supreme Court ultimately strikes down" the ACA.

"I believe that's the likeliest outcome, because Obamacare has always been unconstitutional," Miller said, pointing to the individual mandate provision, which is core to Friday's decision.

It's that very focus on the mandate which has led most legal experts — including conservatives and libertarians who oppose the ACA as a policy matter — to conclude the Friday ruling probably will not hold up under appeal. Read about their reasoning here at The Week. Bonnie Kristian

12:46 p.m.

President Trump does not have the votes in either house of Congress to get the border wall funding he wants, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on Meet the Press Sunday, arguing congressional Republicans should force Trump to accept this fact to avert government shutdown.

"Republicans just have to have the guts to tell President Trump he's off on the deep end here, and all he's going to get with his temper tantrum is a shutdown. He will not get a wall," Schumer told host Chuck Todd.

"If the president wants to debate the wall next year, he can," he continued. "I don't think he'll get it, but I don't think he should use innocent worker as hostages for his temper tantrum to sort of throw a bone to his base." Watch an excerpt of Schumer's comments below. Bonnie Kristian

12:38 p.m.

President Trump will not grant an interview to Special Counsel Robert Mueller if Rudy Giuliani has anything to say about it.

"There are reports now that the special counsel is interested again in interviewing the president," said Fox News host Chris Wallace when Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, joined his show for an interview Sunday. "Has his office reached out to you about sitting down for an in-person interview with the president?"

"Yes, there are several unpaid parking tickets back in 1986 [or] '87 that haven't been explained," Giuliani quipped. Pressed by Wallace for a more serious answer, Giuliani declared the Mueller investigation "a joke" and said Trump would grant the interview "over my dead body — but, you know, I could be dead."

Watch Giuliani's full interview below, and read more here at The Week on why an attorney would be wary of letting his client speak to federal investigators. Bonnie Kristian

11:56 a.m.

President Trump revisited familiar complaints on Twitter Sunday, reiterating his animosity toward a variety of people on a variety of topics.

He began with a gripe about the media, particularly Saturday Night Live, which opened the night before with Alec Baldwin reprising his role as the president in a sketch parodying the holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life.

Alas for Trump, satire is indeed legal.

He soon moved on to the subject of former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. While Trump claimed in tweets Saturday night and Sunday morning that "19,000 Texts between [the two] were just reported as being wiped clean," the reality is Politico reported Thursday that about 19,000 previously missing texts were recovered by the Department of Justice investigation into Strzok and Page.

Trump next made a convoluted non sequitur about the FBI's warranted search of an office belonging to his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen:

On immigration, Trump at once condemned the Obama administration for separating some migrant families while boasting of his own separation policy. And finally, the president said he would review the case of Matt Golsteyn, a former Green Beret who has been charged by the Army with premeditated murder for his admitted role in killing an Afghan man he claimed was a Taliban bomb maker. Bonnie Kristian

10:53 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Sunday pushed back on calls for a second referendum on Brexit, the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union.

May particularly condemned remarks from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said this week a new vote should be considered if "none of the other options work." May accused Blair of "seek[ing] to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum," arguing "Parliament has a democratic duty to deliver what the British people voted for."

May's proposed Brexit deal with the EU has stalled, lacking support to pass a House of Commons vote. Bonnie Kristian

10:48 a.m.

The North Korean government on Sunday issued a typically dramatic statement condemning the United States' sanction regime and suggesting denuclearization plans are in jeopardy.

Pyongyang accused the U.S. State Department of being "bent on bringing [North Korea]-U.S. relations back to the status of last year which was marked by exchanges of fire," warning that additional U.S. sanctions would be America's "greatest miscalculation" and would "block the path to denuclearization on the Korean peninsula forever."

This comes as Pyongyang observes the seventh anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong Il and the rise to power of his son, current leader Kim Jong Un. Bonnie Kristian

10:24 a.m.

Negotiators representing nearly 200 nations in Katowice, Poland, on Saturday agreed to universal greenhouse gas emissions limits intended to mitigate global climate change.

"It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical," said Polish economist Michal Kurtyka, who is leading the United Nations negotiations. "Through this package you have made a thousand little steps forward together," he told the assembled delegates. "You can feel proud."

U.S. negotiators sought to label coal a possible source of clean energy but also pushed for transparency and rules which apply equally to all participant nations. "Overall, the U.S. role here has been somewhat schizophrenic — pushing coal and dissing science on the one hand, but also working hard in the room for strong transparency rules," Elliot Diringer of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions told The Associated Press. "[T]he U.S. pushed harder than nearly anyone else for transparency rules that put all countries under the same system, and it's largely succeeded." Bonnie Kristian

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