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Wednesday
Jul112018

Cohen Attorney: Interview with ABC News was a ‘Declaration of Independence’

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Michael Cohen’s recent interview with ABC News’ Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos was a “declaration of independence two days before July 4,” according to one of Cohen’s new attorneys.

“This is a new Michael Cohen with a new attitude about speaking his mind,” said Lanny Davis, in an interview with TheHill.TV, his first since signing on to Cohen’s legal team.

Cohen – President Trump’s longtime personal attorney and fixer – is under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for potential violations of banking and election laws. On April 9 federal agents executed search warrants on his home, law office and hotel room. Cohen has not been charged.

In recent weeks, Cohen has retained a new legal team that includes Davis, a former Clinton White House official who recently published a book contending that former FBI Director James Comey cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election. Davis is also the co-founder Trident DMG, a public relations and crisis management firm.

The other new Cohen hire is Guy Petrillo, a former federal prosecutor who once led the criminal division of the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, the very office overseeing the criminal investigation of Cohen. On Tuesday, a federal judge overseeing the review of more than 4 million items seized in the Cohen raids approved a request from Petrillo for access to the materials.

The shakeup of the legal team is just one indication that Cohen is signaling a willingness to cooperate with federal investigators, even if that could place his former boss in legal jeopardy.

Cohen wants “to hit the reset button,” Davis said.

“There was a meaning and effect of what Mr. Cohen said to George Stephanopoulos,” Davis said in the Hill.TV, noting that Cohen had staked out numerous positions opposite to the president on the Russia investigation, the conduct of the FBI and the now infamous Trump Tower meeting in June of 2016, when members of the Trump campaign met with several Russians after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

“He was very specific in taking 180 degree opposite positions from President Trump,” Davis said, while also denying reports that Cohen was using the interview with Stephanopoulos as a lifeline to Trump to help him out with his mounting legal fees.

“There is no intent to seek help from Mr. Trump,” Davis said.

As for Cohen’s previous boast that he “would take a bullet” for the president, Davis said “I don’t believe he would say that today.”

Davis also addressed in the interview comments from President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who said on Sunday that he had “zero” concerns about what Cohen might have to tell prosecutors.

“As long as he tells the truth, we’re home free,” Giuliani said on "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos.

On Monday – Davis tweeted, "Did @rudygiuliani really say on Sunday shows that @michaelcohen212 should cooperate with prosecutors and tell the truth? Seriously? Is that Trump and Giuliani definition of ‘truth’? Trump/Giuliani next to the word ‘truth’ = oxymoron.”

Davis told The Hill that his tweet was “half tongue-in-cheek” but also “half serious.”

It was a message, Davis said, that Giuliani’s “strategy of saying to Michael Cohen, 'if you speak the truth, you have nothing to worry about' was in our interpretation the exact opposite. We, on the Michael Cohen side are saying… 'now is my time to speak the truth, the real truth.'”

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Wednesday
Jul112018

Judge denies Manafort request to stay at rural jail

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge on Wednesday denied Paul Manafort’s request to remain at his rural Virginia jail, ordering U.S. Marshals to move the former Trump campaign manager to a detention facility in Alexandria, Va.

Judge T.S. Ellis, who is presiding over Manafort's trial in Virginia beginning in two weeks, initially ordered on Tuesday that Manafort should be moved closer to the Washington, D.C., area “to ensure that defendant has access to his counsel and can adequately prepare his defense.”

But within hours of the judge’s order, attorneys for Manafort asked that their client remain at Northern Neck, citing “his safety," among other things, even though they had complained his detention there was hurting his defense.

Last week, attorneys for Manafort asked the court to delay Manafort’s trial, claiming their client’s detention at the rural facility put an unfair burden on pretrial preparations and specifically cited the distance – more than 100 miles – from Warsaw to Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, Ellis denied Manafort’s request, and for the second time in as many days ordered him to be moved.

“It is surprising and confusing when the counsel identifies a problem and then opposes the most logical solution to that problem,” Ellis wrote Wednesday, adding, “Defense counsel has not identified any general or specific threat to defendant’s safety at the Alexandria Detention Center.”

Manafort has been held at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Va., since another federal judge, presiding over his case in Washington, D.C., revoked his bail last month. Prosecutors with the special counsel asked the judge to jail Manafort after learning that he had attempted to contact potential government witnesses in the days after Mueller brought a superseding indictment against him.

Mueller’s special counsel team has hit Manafort with three superseding indictments in two federal courts – Washington, D.C., and Virginia – amounting to more than 40 charges related to money laundering, tax and bank fraud, conspiracy, and other financial crimes that largely predate his time on the Trump campaign. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Manafort’s previous bail agreement had allowed him to remain at his tony Alexandria, Va., condo with a GPS ankle monitor.

During his time at Northern Neck jail, ABC News reported that Manafort stayed in a cell by himself in the facility’s VIP section, surrounded by walls painted in two shades of brown: bagel and biscuit.

Manafort received three meals a day in his approximately 14x14 foot VIP section cell, which came equipped with a toilet, a shower, a place to sit, a small table, a TV with basic cable, and a phone to make outgoing collect calls.

Judge Ellis ordered U.S. Marshals to move Manafort “promptly,” though no specific timeline for the move was immediately known.

Manafort's trial in Washington, D.C. is set to kick off in September.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul112018

New EPA chief Andrew Wheeler 'not ashamed' of his work for coal company

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In his first official remarks to employees since taking over after Scott Pruitt's resignation, Andrew Wheeler, the acting head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told career employees Wednesday he is "not at all ashamed" of his past work for a coal company.

Providing employees with some background on himself, Wheeler acknowledged that his work as a lobbyist for the coal company, Murray Energy, was the part of his career he's most often associated with, but added he had dozens of other clients, and that in the last four or five years he mostly worked to "shore up" pension and healthcare benefits for retired coal miners.

Wheeler said he is "not at all ashamed of the work that I did for the coal company" and that he was actually disappointed that before he left his private firm, he wasn't able to do more to guarantee the pension benefits.

"My grandfather was a coal miner during the depression, my grandmother raised her children in the coal camps in West Virginia, in fact, I still have some of the company script that she used to buy food in the company store," he told employees gathered at EPA headquarters. "And so the work that I did on behalf of the company to try to help the retirees of United Mine Workers is the reason the United Mine Workers endorsed my confirmation when I was nominated last year. I don't think that story has been out there and I think as employees of the agency you need to know that about me."

Wheeler became acting administrator of EPA last Friday after now-former Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned.

Wheeler did not reference the reason for his predecessor's departure, which Pruitt said in his resignation letter was personal attacks against him and his family. There are multiple ongoing investigations into Pruitt's conduct and spending since taking over the agency.

"I do understand firsthand the stress that goes along with a change in management or a change in reorganization," Wheeler told EPA employees. "And we're going through that change now, and I understand how stressful that can be and I'll let you know that I understand that and I'll try to minimize the stress that you all deal with as employees here at the agency"

Wheeler told employees about his long history at the EPA. He first worked in the Pollution Prevention and Toxics office before spending several years working for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the main Senate committee that works with EPA. After working in the Senate, Wheeler was registered as a lobbyist for a firm that represented multiple clients in the energy industry, including the coal company Murray Energy.

While Wheeler's remarks didn't discuss policy in detail, he said that he plans to continue Pruitt and President Trump's agenda.

As for his priorities, he said he wants the EPA to focus on how it works with people affected by large-scale events such as 9/11, the Gold King Mine spill, or the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which he called the "poster child" for the need to improve communication.

"The reality is that risk communication disproportionately impacts people at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder. They are the ones who often live, work, or go to school near an industrial facility or an area with environmental hazards, and they are the most impacted by how well or how poorly we communicate the environmental risk to them. The EPA owes it to the American public to be able to explain in very simple, easy to understand terms what are the risks they face in their daily lives," he said.

Wheeler also said that he wanted to be clearer about how the agency enforces violations of environmental rules and penalties paid by companies and wants to speed up the permitting process. But he emphasized that does not mean letting polluters off the hook or approving all permits.

The acting president of EPA's largest employee union, however, said that Wheeler's comments were simply trying to "quell the dissent" and that he will continue policies that aren't in line with the agency's mission to protect public health.

"A successful coal lobbyist doesn’t change his stripes. He will continue to champion deregulation and permit big polluters to evade compliance altogether. With Wheeler at the helm, we can expect EPA’s enforcement pendulum to shift from exaggerated overreach to something dangerous that they call "enforcement discretion." Plain and simple, this “regulatory certainty” is the new unregulated capitalism," Denise Morrison, the acting president of the largest union of EPA employees around the country, said in a statement.

Environmental groups including the Sierra Club and some Democrats also expressed opposition to Wheeler. Rep. Don Beyer, D- Va., was a vocal critic and tweeted that "everyone who cares about environmental protection must remain vigilant."

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Wednesday
Jul112018

Who is who at the NATO summit?

Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) -- When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meets on Wednesday in Brussels, many world leaders will be engaging in a diplomatic dance with President Donald Trump. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders meet in Brussels for a two-day summit on Wednesday amidst a terse environment that threatens to further weaken the post-war order.

Formed during the Cold War era, NATO is made up of 29 countries and is the world’s most powerful military alliance, with the goal of strengthening the North Atlantic region’s defense.

Yet this year’s meeting comes at a tense time for transatlantic relations—and not only because the president is set to sit down one-on-one with Russian president Vladimir Putin on May 16 in Helsinki.

Since taking office, President Trump has lambasted European defense spending -- which he sees as insufficient -- while simultaneously imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum and withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal—moves criticized by many European heads of state. Such decisions have put decades-long relationships with European allies at risk, and this week’s NATO summit in Brussels is likely to continue to ruffle feathers. Here are some of the main players at this week’s summit and a glimpse at what may be in store.

Donald Trump


Since his early days in office, Donald Trump has targeted European countries for what he sees as their disproportionately low spending on their own defense, which is an indirect form of funding to NATO. NATO defense spending is a suggested 2% of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) which member countries pledged to do by 2024. All but four countries still fall short of meeting the goal, but it is not a binding legal commitment.

All members pay their share of shared costs towards NATO. This means the difference is not coming out of the pockets of US taxpayers, as the president has claimed. The U.S. pays about 3.6%, an amount the president feels is more than its fair share. Yet the US chooses to spend more on defense and not all of the funds go towards NATO-related expenses.

Trump has gone as far as describing NATO as obsolete, leaving some European leaders questioning the U.S’s continued commitment to the organization. The president’s tone has European leaders worried that Trump may reduce U.S. military spending—or fail to come to their rescue in the event of Russian aggression.

In a recent string of tweets days before heading to a trip to Europe, Trump once again blasted European countries for not upping their defense spending fast enough. Many European countries have been slowly raising their NATO spending since last year, yet Trump said “they must do much more.” Further worrying concerning to those in Europe is Trump’s practice of linking NATO spending with trade—focusing on what he sees as an unfair trade balance between the U.S. and other nations.

Angela Merkel

When it comes to Trump’s combative stance on German defense spending, Germany is in the eye of the storm. Europe’s largest economy currently pays only 1.24% of its GDP in defense spending but has planned to reach the 1.5% mark by 2024. In the meantime, Merkel comes to the table having committed to spending an additional $21bln in military spending. Whether or not this will be a Trump vs. Merkel faceoff remains to be seen.

Instead, the chancellor has remained focused on NATO goals, not responding directly to the U.S. president. The most recent episode of her weekly podcast focused on the importance of NATO, saying it must focus more on “defending the alliance” -- which includes having a greater presence in Central and Eastern European countries, a reference to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Merkel is also pushing for a “responsible relationship with Russia.”

Theresa May

It’s been a tough week for Theresa May after a series of resignations over post-Brexit negotiations have left her cabinet in turmoil. This has also had implications for what she brings to Brussels, since the dispute left her unable to present a detailed proposal on modernizing the U.K. army, navy and air force as planned. That the U.K. already meets NATO’s 2% GDP spending on defense should bode well for the prime minister. This Thursday, Trump will head to Brussels for a three-day meeting with May although shortly before leaving on Tuesday, he described the U.K. and NATO as “a situation with turmoil,” stating that his meeting with Putin may be “the easiest of them all.”

Emmanuel Macron

Like Germany, France comes to NATO with fear of a reprimand, as it does not meet the 2% GDP contribution, although it has presented a plan to do so within seven years. In what was perhaps an attempt to smooth things over before the summit, Macron pledged to sign for a $18.7 billion boost in defense spending this Friday.

Yet, France has become a U.S. military ally, and has staged joint military actions to combat Islamic groups around the world -- from Iraq to the Sahara. Despite the military ties, the French president has sparred with Trump on trade, specifically over proposed steel tariffs, which he called “a mistake.”

Justin Trudeau

The Canadian president has not been spared the defense spending criticism by his American counterpart. The Canadian government has pledged to spend more on the military, yet it has also stated that it won’t be meeting the 2% defense spending set out by Trump. Instead, it will max out at 1.4%.

Yet on Tuesday, Trudeau pledged to commit extra troops to Latvia, part of a multi-national NATO involved in a mission to deter potential Russian aggression until 2023. Made at the right moment, the move signals a willingness to please the U.S.

A European response from another Donald

European Council President Donald Tusk responded to Trump’s provocations in a NATO-E.U. meeting Tuesday, saying “Dear America, appreciate your allies. After all you don’t have that many.” His admonishment came a day before the start of the summit in Brussels. He also tweeted on Tuesday that the U.S. “doesn’t have and won’t have a better ally than the E.U.” and pointed out

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Wednesday
Jul112018

Trump issues blistering attacks on Germany at NATO breakfast: 'Germany is controlled by Russia'

Al Drago/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) -- President Donald Trump came out swinging ahead of Wednesday’s NATO summit by slamming Germany for not spending enough on defense and accusing the country of being “captive” to Russia.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia,” Trump said in a searing critique of Germany’s gas pipeline deal with the country NATO calls its greatest threat to their alliance.

“I think it's very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia where -- we're supposed to be guarding against Russia and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia," Trump said.

“So we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries and then numerous of these countries go out and make a pipeline deal with Russia where they’re paying billions of dollars into the coffers of Russia,” Trump said. “So we’re supposed to protect you against Russia, but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia. I think that’s very inappropriate.”

Trump was referring to the controversial $12 billion proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany.

In a stunning back and forth at Wednesday morning’s bilateral breakfast at the ambassador’s residence in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg defended NATO’s alliance as Trump continued to lob attacks on Germany.

“You know, NATO is the alliance of 29 nations, there's some disagreements,” Stoltenberg said. “And gas from Russia to Germany is where the allies disagree. Despite the differences, we've always been able to protect and to defend each other. We're stronger together than apart. Two World Wars and the Cold War showed we are stronger together than apart.”

But Trump wasn’t buying it.

“How can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against or from the group that you want protection against?” Trump asked.

“When we stand together, also in dealing with Russia, we are stronger,” Stoltenberg replied.

“You're just making Russia richer. You're not dealing with Russia, you're making Russia richer,” Trump said.

“We're supposed to protect Germany but they're getting their energy from Russia. Explain that. And it can't be explained,” Trump said.

Sitting at the table with the president were Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, Trump defended his public reprimanding of allied countries over their defense spending.

“This has been brought up by other presidents. But other presidents never did anything about it because I don't think they’d up it or wanted to get involved,” Trump said. “I have to bring it up because it's unfair to our country or our taxpayers. I think these countries have to step it up, not over a 10-year period, but immediately.”

Trump has called on allied countries to meet or exceed the 2014 Wales summit goal of spending 2 percent GDP on defense spending. According to a NATO report released Tuesday, eight of the 29 member nations are expected to reach that goal by the end of 2018.

As cameras left the room, Trump assured reporters his tough tone will encourage NATO members to pony up: "I have great confidence they'll spend more."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jul112018

Rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wins primary in district she is not running in

Scott Heins/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who scored a major political upset last month when she unseated powerful Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for a New York City congressional seat, has also won the Reform Party primary as a write-in candidate in a different Bronx-based district over the incumbent Democratic, Rep. Jose Serrano.

The candidate confirmed on Twitter Tuesday evening that she was told the news, which was first reported by the New York Daily News.

"Shockingly -- and I'm told this is not a joke -- we have ALSO won a primary in the neighboring 15th Congressional District via write-in campaign on the Reform line!" Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter before going on to say she will reject the nomination and remain the Democratic nomination in the 14th district, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens.

New York state law prevents candidates from running for two different offices simultaneously.

There were no candidates running on the Reform Party ticket in the 15th Congressional District, which was holding primaries and encouraging unaffiliated voters to submit their preferred candidates as a way to bring attention to what they say are broken election laws governing primaries in New York State, according to local news outlet City & State New York.

Ocasio-Cortez, now considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, gained national attention for unseating Crowley, once thought to be a potential Speaker of the House candidate to succeed Nancy Pelosi, by nearly 15 points in New York's June 26th primary election for federal offices.

Serrano has represented New York's 14th Congressional District since 1990, and was a New York State Assemblyman for 15 years prior to his service in the U.S. House.

The New York City Board of Elections did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for more information on Ocasio-Cortez's reported victory.

Ocasio-Cortez is expected to easily win election to the U.S. House in November, when she will face Republican Anthony Pappas, a professor at St. John's University. Hillary Clinton won New York's 14th Congressional District by 57 points in the 2016 presidential election.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jul102018

Kavanaugh begins Senate charm offensive as Democrats roll out opposition strategy

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Just hours after his dramatic White House East Room announcement as Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was on Capitol Hill Tuesday beginning the traditional process of paying courtesy calls on the senators who will vote on his confirmation.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats were already pushing a coordinated message against Kavanaugh as an unacceptable choice on both policy and political grounds.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was the first to meet with Kavanaugh, along with Vice President Mike Pence and Kavanaugh’s “sherpa” throughout the confirmation process, former Arizona GOP Sen. Jon Kyl.

Pence said he was confident that the members of both parties, as well as the American people, would come to realize that Kavanaugh “is quite simply the most qualified and the most deserving nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, whose panel will hold Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing and eventually vote on whether his nominee should be referred to the full Senate, said he expects the consideration process to be “thorough.”

“We'll try to do what we can to accommodate everybody's interest,” he said.

That could have been a nod to Senate Judiciary Democrats who said Tuesday that they want to review every piece of paper related to Kavanaugh's public service, including his work in the George W. Bush administration.

"We have a job to do as members of the Judiciary Committee to dig into his record. To go through it thoroughly, to demand the release of every single record that might be relevant," Sen. Chris Coons said at a press conference Tuesday along with other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In addition to working in the White House Counsel's office under Bush, Kavanaugh also worked for independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation into the death of Clinton aide Vince Foster and the Monica Lewinsky probe that led to President Bill Clinton's impeachment.

Kavanaugh’s long paper trail is only part of the Democratic strategy for building opposition. They already have also been hammering the message that he would vote to undermine key progressive priorities like the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights and the Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

“There's every reason to believe he would overturn Roe,” Sen. Diane Feinstein said at the press conference.

“We should be very concerned that this nominee has been vetted by the Heritage Foundation, whose goal is to repeal the ACA and the protections it provides,” Sen. Mazie Hirono asserted.

Democrats are also arguing that Trump picked Kavanaugh because of a law review article he wrote in 2009, that makes the case for deferring criminal investigations against sitting presidents.

"I believe it is vital that the President be able to focus on his never-ending tasks with as few distractions as possible," Kavanaugh wrote.

“Congress might consider a law exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel,” he wrote.

Democrats are likely to confront Kavanaugh with those words when he sits for his confirmation hearing.

“No investigation of a president! Is it any wonder that President Trump chose Kavanaugh from the list of 25? When we know that he's obsessed with this investigation?” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Despite the cohesiveness among most Senate Democrats on the anti-Kavanaugh messaging, it’s not yet clear how three moderate members of the caucus – Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., all of whom voted for Justice Neil Gorsuch and are in the midst of tough re-election fights this year, will vote.

McConnell said Tuesday that he hoped they would keep an open mind. With Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., receiving cancer treatment in his home state, Republicans need all 50 Republicans, plus Pence as a tiebreaker, to confirm Kavanaugh, assuming no Democrats join them.

“We've got a few Democrats on Justice Gorsuch and we're hopeful that we'll have a few of them on this nomination as well,” McConnell said during his weekly press availability.

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Tuesday
Jul102018

Russian pop star behind infamous Trump Tower meeting continues to taunt investigators

Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesBY: GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS and PETE MADDEN

(NEW YORK) -- Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star who helped arrange a key meeting at Trump Tower between high-ranking members of the Trump campaign and Russians, is trying to make the most of his time in the spotlight.

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday, the 38-year-old singer dodged questions about his role in brokering what has become a key focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and, instead, promoted his recent music videos, hyped his upcoming US tour and even praised President Donald Trump, his former business associate.

In an appearance before the House Intelligence Committee in November, Trump’s former bodyguard Keith Schiller disputed allegations printed in the infamous and unverified “dossier” that Trump had an encounter with prostitutes during a 2013 trip to Moscow for the annual Miss Universe pageant, telling congressional investigators that he turned down an offer someone made to send five women to Trump’s hotel room.

When asked if he was that ‘someone,’ Agalarov (whose father, Aras, had licensed the rights to bring the pageant to Moscow) issued a strange denial.

“No, completely untrue. ... I think it’s important to remember that he had 87 of the most beautiful women in the world with him at the time,” Agalarov told ABC News. “So he had Miss Britain, Miss Australia, Miss Austria, Miss USA, Miss etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So I wouldn’t even risk to offer that.”

That hasn’t stopped Agalarov from capitalizing on the notoriety the accusation has provided him. In the music video for his new single “Got Me Good,” Agalarov appears to mock the Mueller probe, offering viewers faux surveillance footage capturing lookalikes of the investigation’s key players engaged in various forms of stagecraft.

He calls the video, which includes a pillow fight between a Trump impersonator and a group of scantily clad women dressed as Miss Universe contestants, all supervised by Agalarov, a “collage” of the “crazy” accusations that have been made about him in the media.

“I’ve been hearing my name in the news,” Agalarov said, “in the most ridiculous, craziest scenarios.”

For now, that satirical romp will have to stand as Agalarov’s only comment on the issues of interest to investigators. He doesn’t “recollect” the phone calls or text messages he reportedly exchanged with Trump’s son Don Jr., he denies having any interest in politics whatsoever, and he brushed off questions about a Trump Tower Moscow proposal he once floated to his father, a wealthy Moscow real estate developer.

“At some point we had a discussion of building a Trump Tower in Moscow,” Agalarov said. “It was actually my idea. … [But] it never led anywhere.”

He also would not explain why a key aide to his family company, Crocus Group, attended the Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr. As for the meeting itself, in which a Russian lawyer offered dirt on Trump’s rival candidate Hillary Clinton, he is keeping uncharacteristically quiet.

Agalarov told ABC News he has not spoken to Mueller, and he won’t say much more with the probe pending.

“There’s a criminal investigation currently going on,” Agalarov said. “So I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that.”

The show, however, seems poised to go on. The interest of investigators, even the looming threat of a subpoena, does not appear have dampened Agalarov’s enthusiasm for his scheduled 2019 tour dates in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Denver.

“I wouldn’t know if I should be concerned or not,” Agalarov said. “But I do have a tour planned next year around the United States … So hopefully I’ll see all my fans there.”

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Tuesday
Jul102018

Trump says he still has 'Rocket Man' CD for Kim, plans to give North Korean dictator another 'little gift'

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said he hasn't yet given Kim Jong Un a CD with the song "Rocket Man" he autographed, but still plans to.

"They didn't give it, I have it for him," the president told reporters on Tuesday as he and the first lady departed for the NATO summit in Brussels. "But it will be given in a certain period."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought two gifts for Kim with him on his trip to meet North Korean officials in Pyongyang last week. One was a copy of Elton John's "Honky Chateau" album that Trump had signed, which includes the song "Rocket Man." Pompeo also brought a letter for Kim from the president but didn't get to meet the North Korean dictator.

Trump told reporters Tuesday that he might have another gift for Kim as well.

"I actually do have a little gift for him but you’ll find out what that gift is when I give him," Trump said.

According to a South Korean newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, Trump's decision to give Kim the CD comes after a conversation the two leaders had over lunch during their summit in June.

Trump called Kim "Little Rocket Man" or "Rocket Man" in several tweets in 2017 and early 2018 and has said that North Korea’s continued threats against the U.S. would be "met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."

According to Chosun Ilbo, Kim brought up the "rocket man" moniker during the summit, and Trump asked Kim if he knew the song to which Trump was referring, but Kim answered that he didn't.

During Pompeo’s recent trip, meant to negotiate the details of the nuclear agreement signed during the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, North Korea called denuclearization demands by the U.S. "gangster-like."

Pompeo departed Abu Dhabi Tuesday morning to travel to Brussels to attend the NATO summit.

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Tuesday
Jul102018

Trump says Putin meeting 'may be the easiest of them all'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin may be the easiest meeting of his upcoming trip to Europe.

“I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think? Who would think?” Trump told reporters at the White House as he set out on his trip to Europe.

Asked if he views Putin as a friend or foe, the president said “I really can't say right now” and instead characterized him as “a competitor.”

The president declined to criticize the longtime US adversary even as he offered more criticism for European allies, digging in on his hardline position on trade and reiterating his complaints about unequal burden-sharing among NATO partners paying into the alliance.

“We're being taken advantage of by the European Union. We lost $151 billion last year on trade,” the president told reporters. “And on top of that, we spend at least 70 percent for NATO. And, frankly, it helps them a lot more than it helps us.”

The president also broadcast his view with a presidential tweet ahead of his departure, saying the United States disproportionate contributions to NATO are “unfair” to the US taxpayer.

Following what is expected to be a tense NATO summit given the president’s public rhetoric on his way to the meeting, he then will make his first visit to the UK as president at a time when Prime Minister Theresa May is dealing with an internal political crisis.

While the president referenced the “turmoil” in the UK, he declined to wade into the domestic political situation when asked to offer his opinion on whether May should remain in power. “Well that’s up to the people,” Trump said. “I get along with her very well. I have a very good relationship. That's certainly up to the people, not up to me.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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