×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
February 21, 2017

On Sunday, The New York Times reported that President Trump's personal legal counsel, Michael Cohen, met last month with a colorful Russian-American former Trump business associate, Felix Sater, and a pro-Moscow Ukrainian lawmaker, then delivered a sealed envelope from them to Michael Flynn, Trump's then-national security adviser, with a "peace plan" for Ukraine. The peace deal, proposed by Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko, would lead to formalizing Russia's occupation of Crimea as a lease and lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia.

Cohen and Sater confirmed the meeting and the envelope delivery. Then on Monday, Cohen backpedaled, telling The Washington Post and NBC News that "the brief meeting took place," but "emphatically" denying "discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn." He agreed to meet with Sater for coffee, he added, because he's "known Felix for years," and didn't know Sater's friend "would be a guy who wants to run for president of Ukraine." The Times stood by its story, telling The Washington Post that Cohen said "in no uncertain terms that he delivered the Ukraine proposal to Michael Flynn's office at the White House."

The back-channel diplomacy effort is not illegal, though it is unusual and maybe inconvenient amid federal investigations into Trump's business and political ties to Moscow. The reappearance of Sater is interesting, in any case, not least because he has a colorful history that includes arrests for stabbing a man in the face with a broken glass in a bar fight and for a Mafia-linked stock-fixing scheme, and avoiding jail by working for the CIA and FBI.

Sater's long business history with Trump includes working on several Trump-licensed projects, including the Trump SoHo building and — a decade ago and again in 2015 — a proposal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Sater's name has popped up a couple of times in the campaign, but despite evidence of their close ties, Trump has sworn in depositions that he wouldn't even recognize Sater's face, as shown in this December 2015 report from ABC News.

The peace proposal did not meet with a positive response in either Kiev or Moscow; Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the plan "absurd," and Ukrainian Ambassador Valeriy Chaly said that Artemenko "is not entitled to present any alternative peace plans on behalf of Ukraine to any foreign government." Peter Weber

1:02 p.m. ET

A neo-Nazi march is scheduled for Saturday in the small Georgia city of Newnan, about 40 miles southwest of Atlanta. Anti-fascist counter-protesters are expected as well, and a local church will hold an interfaith service to promote "peace and unity" during the rally.

To prepare for the event, local shopkeepers have removed anything that could be moved or thrown in public spaces, and many will not open for business to decrease opportunities for conflict. Many Newnan residents went shopping the night before to help make up the missing revenue.

And a community nonprofit invited children to make chalk drawings in the local park to undermine the neo-Nazis' message: "It will be hard for the hate group to take serious video footage when a rainbow-colored unicorn is in the shot." Bonnie Kristian

12:21 p.m. ET

An estimated 1,500 mourners turned out for the funeral of former first lady Barbara Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston on Saturday.

Her widower, former President George H.W. Bush, was joined by former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura; former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle; and former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. First lady Melania Trump attended without President Trump — sitting presidents typically do not go to funerals of former first ladies — who tweeted about the funeral from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida:

Barbara Bush died Tuesday at 92 after electing not to receive further treatment for multiple ailments. Read The Week's Matthew Walther on her life here. Bonnie Kristian

11:43 a.m. ET

Queen Elizabeth turned 92 on Saturday, marking the day with several military salutes and a concert in the evening. She is the oldest British monarch by more than a decade, easily outpacing runner-up Queen Victoria, who lived to be 81.

Though April 21 is the actual day of her birth, Elizabeth officially celebrates her birthday on June 9, a tradition that dates to King George II, who wanted to celebrate with good weather in the summer instead of his real birthday month, November. The summer birthday is marked with a large parade in London.

On Thursday, Elizabeth formally endorsed her son, Prince Charles, to be the next leader of the Commonwealth. "It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949," she said. Bonnie Kristian

10:47 a.m. ET
Michael Thomas /

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (R) was charged Friday with felony computer data tampering for his campaign's alleged use of "data, specifically a donor list owned by The Mission Continues," a charity Greitens founded, for "a political fundraiser."

Greitens is already charged with felony invasion of privacy. He is accused of threatening a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair that he would release an intimate photo of her if she spoke about their relationship.

The governor has refused to resign while his court cases proceed. He denied the new allegations Friday. Bonnie Kristian

10:40 a.m. ET
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday directed Americans to throw away all romaine that could have been grown near Yuma, Arizona, which is believed to be the source of E. coli contamination on the lettuce. The CDC originally warned against pre-chopped romaine only, but the caution has been expanded to include hearts of romaine and full heads of the lettuce.

Some 53 people in 16 states have been affected by the outbreak. While five have suffered kidney failure from the bacteria, no deaths have been reported so far. Read the CDC's full report on the outbreak here. Bonnie Kristian

10:05 a.m. ET

A California man named Anthony Mele was killed in an apparently random stabbing attack while he held his young daughter at a cafe in Ventura, California, on Wednesday.

A homeless man named Jamal Jackson was arrested and charged with first-degree murder for the attack. Restaurant employees and customers followed Jackson after the stabbing to help police locate him.

"It's horrible," said prosecutor Richard Simon. "You don't think you're going to be killed when you go out to dinner at a nice restaurant with your family." Bonnie Kristian

10:00 a.m. ET

In rapid-fire tweets Saturday morning, President Trump accused New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman — who co-wrote a Friday story on Michael Cohen, Trump's personal attorney — of faking the report in an effort to coerce Cohen into talking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe:

Trump posted his tweet series twice, the second iteration replacing a first attempt in which Trump misspelled "Haberman" as "Habberman."

The Times story in question suggests Cohen's loyalty to Trump may be fading after years of Trump treating him "poorly, with gratuitous insults, dismissive statements and, at least twice, threats of being fired." "Donald goes out of his way to treat [Cohen] like garbage," said Trump adviser Roger Stone. Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads