Morning Report — Will the jury believe Michael Cohen?


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Manhattan prosecutors turned Monday to star witness Michael Cohen to describe the crux of their alleged criminal evidence against former President Trump stemming from his bid for the White House in 2016.

Cohen’s account of doing Trump’s bidding to hide extramarital sex as Trump sought the presidency eventually angered the defendant. Trump exited the courtroom to say he chafed at being off the campaign trail and he read at length from articles written by legal allies. Trump also blasted the presiding justice after hours of listening, sometimes with his eyes closed, to his former “fixer” retell a story now internationally familiar.

The Hill: Angry Trump blasts Justice Juan Merchan following Cohen’s testimony.

Accompanying witness testimony, which Trump challenges, is alleged evidence gathered in documents, text messages, email and phone calls.

It would be embarrassing but not a felony if Trump was intimately involved in hush payments that were paid by Cohen to two women to lock up their stories about sex with the then-businessman. Cohen says he received reimbursement from Trump for funds he expended on his boss’s behalf. But the criminal charge against Trump is pegged to evidence that Trump sought to disguise the repayments as mundane legal expenses to hide his activities from voters during a presidential election. Trump denies all charges.

“Just do it,” Cohen recalled his boss saying when approving a plan to repay him for concluding a deal to buy silence from adult-film personality Stormy Daniels.

He described being deeply involved in attempts to protect Trump’s campaign from scandal, including by covering up Daniels’s tale of sex with a married Trump. The former president’s ex-attorney testified that his then-boss feared the story could sink his 2016 electoral hopes.

The Hill’s Niall Stanage weaves with five takeaways the day’s vivid Cohen testimony and the foundation of the prosecution’s case thus far.

Cohen, convicted for lying to Congress and to investigators, is expected back on the stand today. His cross-examination by the defense team is expected to be harsh after linking Trump directly to hush payments ahead of the 2016 election. The trial will take a break Wednesday and Friday and prosecutors have suggested they may rest their case by the end of the week.


3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY:

▪ The Arizona Supreme Court on Monday granted a request to delay the enforcement of the state’s 1864 abortion ban, preventing it from taking effect for the next several months.

▪ Major U.S. airlines — including United, Delta and American — are suing the U.S. Transportation Department over a new rule requiring upfront disclosure of airline fees, the latest clash between air carriers and the Biden administration.

▪ Patient Rick Slayman, 62, diagnosed with end-stage renal failure and the recipient of a transplanted and genetically modified pig kidney in March, died at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “We have no indication that it was the result of his recent transplant,” the hospital said in a statement.


LEADING THE DAY

Politics Biden 051224 AP Manuel Balce Ceneta

© The Associated Press / Manuel Balce Ceneta | President Biden on Sunday in Delaware.

POLITICS

A FRESH POLL from The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Siena College brought more bad news for President Biden as he struggles to catch up to Trump in the key battleground states that will decide November’s election. The Hill’s Brett Samuels and Julia Manchester report the poll found Trump leading in five out of six swing states, with Wisconsin the lone place where Biden is ahead. More concerning for the incumbent is that the poll found the president is losing support among young voters and Black and Hispanic voters, all of whom are critical to his coalition to win reelection.

“With the usual stipulations about polls six months out, Biden is behind,” said Jim Kessler, co-founder of the left-leaning think tank Third Way. “They need to be in a better place on the border, crime and inflation to win. They have a story to tell on each and further actions they can take, but they need to get cracking.”

That same poll found Democratic Senate candidates in Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin lead their Republican rivals and are running well ahead of Biden in key states where he continues to struggle. The battleground surveys indicate that his lagging poll numbers against Trump may not be enough to sink other Democrats, especially Senate incumbents who are facing lesser-known Republicans.

Still, The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports Senate Democrats have downplayed the political threat they face this year over the huge surge of migrants across the southern border, but their recent actions show they are increasingly nervous about the potential political liability of the issue. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the Senate Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbent, on Thursday became the first in his conference to co-sponsor the Laken Riley Act after voting against it as an amendment in March. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has stepped up his messaging on border security, repeatedly addressing it on the Senate floor, and Biden has announced executive action on immigration policy. 

“Democrats realize on the border and immigration, you need to talk about that,” said one Democratic strategist. “You can’t just not talk about that. I’ll be interested in seeing what the Biden team does on executive actions. I think it can be helpful.”


2024 ROUNDUP:

▪ Here are five things to watch for in today’s Maryland, West Virginia and Nebraska primaries.

▪ Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is slated to appear at a political event featuring some of the biggest names in finance, including Citadel’s Ken Griffin, Apollo’s Marc Rowan and Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman, as he vies to be Trump’s running mate.

▪ 🎧 Listen in: In The Hill’s “The Switch Up,” Cheyenne M. Daniels speaks with a new generation of Black women who are hoping to bring change and diversity to the Republican Party.

▪ The vice president, speaking Monday, drew applause when she told young listeners at a summit of the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies, “We have to know that sometimes people will open the door for you and leave it open. Sometimes they won’t. And then you need to kick that f—ing door down.” Harris laughed at the audience reaction she sparked.

▪ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pressed the Secret Service to push demonstrators and a protest zone further out from the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee July 15-18.

▪ GOP senators who have traveled to New York City to support Trump during his hush money trial include J.D. Vance of Ohio, who criticized Cohen on Monday, and Rick Scott of Florida, who was there Thursday and bashed the presiding justice’s daughter Sunday as “part of the Democrat machine.”

▪ Trump’s renewed promise to build a missile shield over the continental United States akin to Israel’s Iron Dome is an expensive fantasy, according to experts.


WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at noon.

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. Biden will speak from the Rose Garden at 12:15 p.m. about his jobs, trade and investments agenda. He heads to the Washington Convention Center to address a gala event at 7:35 p.m. hosted by the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies. Biden will return to the White House 70 minutes later.

The vice president is in New York City to appear at 10 a.m. on the daytime talk show “Sherri” with Sherri Shepherd. She will headline campaign events in the morning and evening before returning to Washington.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Ukraine through Thursday. He met this morning with President Volodymyr Zelensky and has a working lunch planned with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv. The secretary will meet with civil society organization representatives this afternoon, and later meet with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. Blinken will meet in the afternoon in Kyiv with U.S. embassy employees, followed by students and employees of Mariupol State University. In the evening, Blinken will speak at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will join Biden in the Rose Garden this afternoon for his discussion of trade and economic policies.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 12:45 p.m.


ZOOM IN

INTERNATIONAL

ISRAEL INTENSIFIED ATTACKS on northern Gaza on Monday, battling Hamas in areas it previously said were cleared and renewing questions over Israeli strategy in the war. Israel has insisted that it must invade Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where more than 1.3 million Palestinians have sought refuge, to “eliminate” Hamas’s presence in the enclave.

But Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned that even a full-scale ground assault on Rafah would fail to achieve that goal. Israel is “on the trajectory, potentially, to inherit an insurgency with many armed Hamas left or, if it leaves, a vacuum filled by chaos, filled by anarchy and probably refilled by Hamas,” he said this week.

Already, Blinken said, Israel’s offensive has led to a “horrible loss of life of innocent civilians,” with the death toll in Gaza rising over the weekend past 35,000, according to local health officials.

NPR: As Palestinians venture back into areas of Gaza that have been obliterated by months of combat, international organizations and aid groups say there’s a hidden threat: unexploded ordnance.

BIDEN IS EXPECTED TO QUADRUPLE tariffs on electric vehicles from China from roughly 25 percent to 100 percent, and raise other tariffs on key industries including semiconductors, solar, and batteries in an announcement today. By implementing a steep increase on EV tariffs, the administration aims to prevent a flood of cars made in China from hitting the U.S. market — a market China has not been a significant player in up to this point (The Wall Street Journal and ABC News).

“Hopefully we will not see a significant Chinese response — but that’s always a possibility,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a Bloomberg News interview Monday. “The president wants to make sure that he protects these investments. He believes it unacceptable — as I do — to be completely dependent on China in these areas,” given that Beijing engages in massive subsidies and “is really not playing by the rules.”

▪ NPR: Biden will keep Trump’s China tariffs and add new ones on electric vehicles.

▪ Reuters: How hard will new U.S. tariffs hit China’s EVs and other exports?

AP24135344994456 e1715681181221

© The Associated Press / Ukrainian Presidential Press Office | Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

IN UKRAINE, Kharkiv and its surrounding area are facing an intense wave of attacks from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invading troops, with experts suggesting the surge marks the start of a decisive battle that will be critical to the outcome of the war. At stake is not just control of one of Ukraine’s major population centers but potentially the country’s capacity to keep fighting: If Kharkiv falls, Western resolve may soon follow (Politico).

Blinken is in Kyiv today, the first visit of a Biden administration official to Ukraine following congressional approval of additional U.S. military aid to the country. Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and plans to highlight the U.S.’s continued support for Ukraine across the board in a speech (CNN).


ELSEWHERE

Congress FAA airport 122721 AP Jacquelyn Martin

© The Associated Press / Jacquelyn Martin | The Federal Aviation Administration’s congressional reauthorization faces a Friday deadline in the House. One hitch has been whether to add slots for additional air traffic at Reagan National Airport outside Washington.

CONGRESS

THE HOUSE IS EXPECTED to easily clear the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill this week, sending the measure to Biden’s desk with time to spare before a Friday funding deadline. The legislation is scheduled to be considered today under suspension of the rules and would reauthorize the FAA at $105 billion over five years — including priorities aimed at overhauling aircraft certification and improving aviation safety.

The bill passed the Senate last week after a fraught amendment process as some senators threatened to hold up an agreement to fast-track the measure unless they received floor votes on their amendments. The big point of contention in the FAA bill is the addition of slots at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which the Maryland and Virginia congressional delegations oppose but were unable to strip from the Senate version. House Republicans overwhelmingly support expanding DCA to allow more flights outside the statutory perimeter. House Democrats are largely opposed (Roll Call).

PERMITTING REFORM: Schumer threw cold water on the prospects of reaching a deal to speed up the nation’s energy projects Monday, saying that reaching a Senate deal on energy permitting reform would be “virtually impossible.” Lawmakers have been working for nearly two years to come up with such an agreement, which would speed up the process through which energy and other infrastructure projects are approved (The Hill).

▪ The Hill: The White House on Monday said it was strongly opposed to a House GOP bill aimed at Biden’s handling of aid shipments to Israel.

▪ The Hill: Two lawmakers are pushing back against online liability protections for Big Tech companies, saying the law has “outlived its usefulness.”


OPINION

■ Can this ex-Republican revive Democrats in rural Ohio? by Farah Stockman, columnist, The New York Times.

■ Why many American Jews are deeply conflicted about Israel’s war, by Steve Israel, opinion contributor, The Hill.


THE CLOSER

Closer Ben Gurion 041818 AP

 © The Associated Press / AP file photo | On May 14, 1948, Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and an official examined the signed document proclaiming the establishment of the new Jewish state of Israel.

And finally … Flashback: On this day in 1948, Jewish Agency Chair David Ben-Gurion proclaimed in Tel Aviv the establishment of the state of Israel for the first time in 2,000 years. Immediately following the British army’s withdrawal earlier that day at the expiration of its mandate, the state of Israel was celebrated by Jews and within hours, gained official recognition by the United States.

“We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel,” Ben-Gurion announced. Four hours later, Egypt bombed Tel Aviv. Other forces from Transjordan (by 1949 called Jordan), Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded. In 1949, cease-fires brokered by the United Nations left the state of Israel in permanent control of the territory.

The Associated Press: Palestinians on Wednesday mark the 76th anniversary of mass expulsion from Israel in 1948. They call it the Nakba: catastrophe.


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