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The adult movie star has drawn the White House into a politically damaging sexual melodrama

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The adult movie star, who claims she had an affair with Trump and was paid $130,000 to stay quiet before the election by the President’s lawyer[1], has drawn the White House into a politically damaging sexual melodrama.
Daniels turned her case from a side show muffled by multiple controversies battering the administration into a West Wing headache using methods that Trump, the high priest of self publicity, would recognize.
Building buzz with the garish theatrics of a reality show protagonist and offering suggestive interviews that hinted at hidden bombshells, Daniels then weaponized the courts to target a foe who has no desire to fight.
Attorney for porn star suing President claims Trump's lawyer 'further threatened' her

That’s how White House press secretary Sarah Sanders found herself sparring[2] Wednesday with reporters demanding to know if her boss was trying to silence the porn star after an alleged liaison a decade ago.
Her answers only prolonged the drama and exacerbated its political toll.
Among the questions left hanging on Thursday morning: Did Trump’s team try to stop a damaging scandal emerge just before the 2016 election? Did Trump know about the payment himself? Is the President still involved in what Daniels’ lawyer says is an ongoing attempt to intimidate her[3]?
If the mess isn’t cleared up soon, it could ding Trump’s already compromised image ahead of midterm elections that are crucial to his political fate.
There is so far no evidence of wrongdoing by the President and he has denied the alleged affair.
But as details emerge of a covert litigation battle between Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen and Daniels’ representatives, Trump, already fuming at a special counsel probe, could find himself in yet more legal peril.

New lines of inquiry

Sarah Sanders says -- as far as she knows -- Trump didn't know of porn star payment

Uncharacteristically, Sanders did not simply deflect questions about the case to one of Trump’s lawyers Wednesday, a skill she’s largely perfected.
Instead, she inadvertently opened new lines of inquiry by startling journalists by offering fresh information.
“This case has already been won in arbitration,” she said, before belatedly directing further questions to “outside counsel.”
Her explanation was more unequivocal than the facts suggest.
The breakthrough that Cohen’s own lawyer secured on his behalf was merely a temporary restraining order against Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, rather than a conclusive victory.
When Sanders was asked whether the President knew about the payment to Daniels before the election, she replied “not that I am aware of,” a statement that fell well short of a full denial and only raised more questions.
She also maintained that the “American people were aware of this, voted for the President.”
That was not true since although voters did know about Trump’s alleged affairs and allegations of harassment against him, the story about Daniels only broke in January when it was reported in The Wall Street Journal[4].
The upshot of the briefing — more ammunition to keep the story churning.
While Sanders undeniably had a distasteful duty, two sources close to the White House told CNN’s Jim Acosta that they were surprised how Sanders handled the issue.
“It was sloppy,” one said. The other source pointed out, “they acknowledged something people didn’t notice in paperwork yesterday.”

‘Bogus’ arbitration

In effect, Sanders broke the news that Cohen last week won an order from an arbitrator to temporarily stop Daniels talking about the alleged affair.
Cohen who told the Journal in January that he had “facilitated” the payment, argued that Daniels had breached the non-disclosure agreement she signed weeks before the 2016 election.
But in a suit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles,[5] Daniels contended the contract was invalid because it was never signed by Trump.
The Daniels lawsuit also contends that Cohen initiated a “bogus arbitration” hearing against her without notifying her beforehand.
A copy of the restraining order against Daniels obtained by CNN confirms that the judge made a “one-party” ruling that did not require her to be notified — raising questions about the tactics used by Cohen, if not their legality.
Wherever the truth lies in this legal imbroglio, the fact that it is being talked about at all spells bad news for the White House.
Beyond the embarrassment for Trump, and potentially his wife Melania, it also will force Republican lawmakers to answer questions on the issue at a time when their relationship with the President is under fresh strain.

A slippery legal and political slope

The longer the episode lingers, the most likely it will become an issue for Trump and the GOP in the midterms.
While Trump’s legendary base is always unmoved by his scandals, he is potentially vulnerable among independent voters and more traditional Republicans who voted for him in 2016.
The case will worry Republican strategists, who have watched the President’s fortunes tumble among a key sector of the electorate — women.
Trump carried white women voters over Hillary Clinton by nine points in 2016, but trails potential 2020 Democratic re-election foes by double figures among the same demographic, according to a recent CNN/SSRS poll[6].
Trump won 61% of white women[7] without a college degree in 2016, according to exit polls; but his approval rating among them dipped to 48% in the full year 2017 average of Gallup polling. Among college-educated white women, he fell from 44% in 2016[8] to an ominous 32% average approval rating last year, according to CNN political columnist Ronald Brownstein.
Female voters are tipped for a key role in suburban districts that could swing the House to Democrats in November.
And politics may not be Trump’s only concern.
Down the road, any effort to compel Trump’s testimony in the case could open new peril for a President who shades the truth and is causing his lawyers sleepless nights about his desire to testify to special counsel Robert Mueller.
After all, lying under oath in a case that originated from an extramarital relationship is what got President Bill Clinton impeached.

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

Image
Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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