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May 12, 2018

After news broke that AT&T paid President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, $600,000 to consult on the company's attempted acquisition of Time Warner, among other projects, the telecom labeled the partnership "a serious misjudgment."

Meanwhile, Trump and his new personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, responded by emphasizing the administration's opposition to the deal, suggesting Cohen's arrangement was not a big deal because he proved an ineffective lobbyist. The president made his comments on Twitter Friday evening:

Giuliani likewise said Friday "the president denied the merger," so "whatever lobbying was done didn't reach the president" and AT&T "didn't get the result they wanted." This defense apparently contradicts the Justice Department's narrative that Trump is uninvolved in the decision. "If Giuliani didn't misspeak, this is major news," said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti Friday. "It is highly unusual for the president to be involved in DOJ merger decisions." Bonnie Kristian

9:47 a.m.

"Truth isn't truth," and presidential inaugurations have nothing to do with presidents, apparently.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Thursday night that The Wall Street Journal's report about a criminal investigation into President Trump's 2017 inaugural committee is only distantly, vaguely related to Trump himself.

"That doesn't have anything to do with the president or the first lady," said Sanders. "The biggest thing the president did in his engagement in the inauguration was to come here, and raise his hand, and take the oath of office."

Federal prosecutors are reportedly looking into whether Trump's inaugural committee misspent any of its record $107 million haul and whether any of the committee's biggest donors sought access to or special favors from the incoming Trump administration for their donations. Improper spending could amount to a violation of federal corruption laws.

Even though the committee told the Journal that there is no such investigation, Sanders quickly distanced Trump from the entire situation. "The president was focused on the transition during that time and not on any of the planning," she said. Watch her comments below, via Vox's Aaron Rupar. Summer Meza

9:37 a.m.

Among allies of President Trump, "he did not break the law" has quickly evolved into "even if he did, who cares?"

Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told The Daily Beast in a story published Friday that the ongoing controversy over possible campaign finance violations isn't a big deal because "Nobody got killed, nobody got robbed," adding, "this was not a big crime." He went on to compare paying hush money to two alleged mistresses shortly before a presidential election to not paying parking tickets.

Trump's lawyer had previously argued that the payments were not related to the campaign and were "personal," and therefore were not in violation of campaign finance law, per The Washington Post. But this argument has become increasingly dubious in recent days considering American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, said this week that it paid Karen McDougal $150,000 to keep her silent about her alleged affair with Trump for the sole purpose of ensuring she did not affect the election. Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has also said the payments had everything to do with the election.

Giuliani separately told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that even if Trump did violate campaign finance law, it's not big deal. "It's campaign finance, my God," he said. "Everybody pays a fine to the FEC that is in politics. You can’t follow all the rules.” Brendan Morrow

8:59 a.m.

MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski apologized on Morning Joe Friday morning for having called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a "wannabe dictator's butt boy."

Brzezinski at the top of the show referenced her "terrible choice of words" two days prior. "The term is crass and offensive and I apologize to everyone, especially the LGBTQ community and to my colleagues for using it," she said, per Mediaite. This was a "mistake," Brzezinski added, saying she will "work hard to be better."

The Morning Joe host had apologized for the remark on Twitter Wednesday morning, saying that it was a "SUPER BAD choice of words" and that she should have said "water boy" instead. Brzezinski was not on Morning Joe the next day, which co-host Joe Scarborough said was because of a pre-planned family event.

President Trump weighed in on the controversy, tweeting that if a conservative made a similar mistake, they would "be banned permanently from television" but that Brzezinski, who he referred to as "crazed," will "probably be given a pass, despite their terrible ratings." Megyn Kelly, a conservative whose NBC show was canceled after she made comments defending wearing blackface on Halloween, said Thursday that Brzezinski should not be fired for her statement, per The Daily Mail. "I hope she's forgiven," Kelly said. Brendan Morrow

8:14 a.m.

Nancy Wilson, a vocalist who is best known for singing jazz but preferred to call herself a "song stylist," died Thursday night after a long illness. She was 81. Wilson, who retired from touring in 2011, died at her home in Pioneertown, California, near Joshua Tree National Park.

Wilson was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1937. She started singing at age 4, began performing professionally after a year of college, and started recording hit records soon after moving to New York City in 1959, The Associated Press reports. Her biggest commercial success was in the 1960s, when she recorded eight albums that hit the Billboard Top 20 pop charts. Her repertoire ranged from torch songs to show tunes and pop standards, but she is most associated with jazz. Wilson won two Grammys for jazz records, in 2005 and 2007, but also a Grammy for best R&B performance in 1965. The National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a "Jazz Masters Fellowship" in 2004, and the NAACP honored her with an Image award in 1998. She also appeared on several TV shows, including Hawaii Five-O and her own eponymous variety show.

Here, Wilson sings "Lush Life," from the 1967 album of the same name.

Wilson, who was married twice and divorced once, is survived by one son, two daughters, two sisters, and five grandchildren. Peter Weber

8:13 a.m.

CBS has been hit with yet another sexual harassment scandal.

The New York Times reports the network in January 2018 secretly reached a $9.5 million settlement with actress Eliza Dushku, who said she was written off of Bull after complaining about being sexually harassed by the show's star, Michael Weatherly.

Weatherly reportedly commented on Dushku's appearance, made a rape joke, and talked about having a threesome. After she confronted Weatherly about this, her character was shortly written off the series, even though there had reportedly been plans for her to join the cast full time. She felt she was written off as punishment for her sexual harassment complaint. Some of this harassment was reportedly captured on tape.

This information came out as part of an investigation at CBS following the sexual misconduct allegations against Les Moonves, the network's former chairman. Dushku didn't comment for the Times' article, but CBS confirmed the settlement was reached, saying that "while we remain committed to a culture defined by a safe, inclusive, and respectful workplace, our work is far from done."

Weatherly told the Times he made jokes on set "mocking some lines in the script" but was "horrified" when he found out Dushku wasn't comfortable with them. "After reflecting on this further, I better understand that what I said was both not funny and not appropriate and I am sorry and regret the pain this caused Eliza," he said. Weatherly, after being confronted by Dushku, had reportedly texted David Stapf, the president of CBS Television Studios, "saying that he wanted to talk about Ms. Dushku's sense of humor." He denies pushing for her to be written off the series. Read more at The New York Times. Brendan Morrow

7:27 a.m.

President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen is speaking out in his first televised interview since being sentenced to three years in prison.

Cohen told ABC News Friday that "of course" Trump knew that making hush money payments to two women, Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, was wrong. But Cohen says his boss instructed him to silence the women, who have alleged they had affairs with Trump before he ran for president. Trump denies their allegations. "I knew what I was doing was wrong," Cohen also said.

Referring to Trump's claim that the payments were made without his knowledge, Cohen said, "I don't think there is anybody that believes that ... He directed me to make the payments."

Trump has additionally argued that the payments were not campaign contributions, but Cohen tells ABC that they were specifically made to "help [Trump] and his campaign.”

Cohen regrets giving loyalty to Trump, who "truthfully does not deserve loyalty," he said. When ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Cohen why people should believe him now when he has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, Cohen responded that prosecutors have a "substantial amount of information that they possessed that corroborates the fact that I am telling the truth," adding that he's "done with the lying."

Speaking more about his former boss, Cohen observed that Trump is now a "very different individual" than in the past because the "pressure of the job is much more than what he thought it was going to be." Watch a portion of Cohen's interview with ABC below. Brendan Morrow

6:58 a.m.

There was lots of legal news about President Trump on Thursday. None of it was good.

A day after Michael Cohen was handed jail time for crimes he said he committed on Trump's orders, NBC News placed Trump in the room where apparently illegal campaign finance violations were plotted, The Wall Street Journal said federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into Trump's inaugural committee, and The Daily Beast reported that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating possible Trump campaign collusion with Israel and Saudi Arabia, not just Russia. Maria Butina admitted to being a Russian agent and affirmed she is cooperating with U.S. prosecutors in a case about Russian 2016 campaign meddling.

Publicly, Trump tried to distance himself from Cohen on Thursday, and "in private, Mr. Trump vented about investigators' scrutiny of him and his associates," people familiar with the matter tell The Wall Street Journal.

At the same time, people close to the White House described the president as less consumed this week about the investigations than the media coverage of a contentious meeting he had with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "He was annoyed with how that meeting was playing out," one person close to the White House said. Network shows have repeatedly played clips of Mrs. Pelosi correcting the president on how many votes he has in the House and on his characterization of her. [The Wall Street Journal]

Trump and Pelosi were discussing a looming government shutdown over Trump's demands for $5 billion for a border wall. "With Trump fueling the border wall brinkmanship, everyone in the Capitol has basically stopped talking," Politico reports. "The House and Senate left town Thursday with no strategy to avert a partial government shutdown next week, putting Congress on the brink of an intractable conflict that could drag out through New Year's Day — furloughing hundreds of thousands of workers and costing taxpayers millions." Peter Weber

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