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Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and his cover-up efforts make Nixon’s Watergate cronies look like amateurs

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As America watches in suspense, President Donald Trump’s talents as an escape artist are being pitted against the seemingly inexorable march of the rule of law in real time. But, despite the prosecutors’ heavy artillery and the FBI’s implacable force, you can’t count Trump out. He and Michael Cohen, his inimitable lawyer and “fixer,” come from a world that’s tougher and far less scrupulous than the one that most government officials and politicians now inhabit.

Indeed, when people talk about Trump’s troubles, they usually cite the Watergate scandal as the template. But that might not be right. It may be that, when compared to Trump, President Richard M. Nixon was an amateur at running a cover-up. Trump — his tax returns still secret, his companies still under his control, with much of his cover-up efforts defiantly done in public — may be the grand master here.

Trump lawyer Cohen built his career in the guts of New York City — controlling a fleet of taxicabs (he reportedly owns dozens of taxi medallions) as well as operating a casino and developing real estate. It’s not just that there’s no nonsense in these worlds — it’s that there’s no veneer of adherence to norms, niceties or even basic rules. It’s all about bare knuckles. You eat what you kill. Period.

Trump and Michael Cohen come from a world that’s tougher and far less scrupulous than the one that most government officials and politicians inhabit.

As former Trump Organization executive Louise Sunshine told The Washington Post this week, “When it comes to Michael Cohen, anything is possible. Anything and everything is possible.”

For people who are used to normal procedures, the FBI’s Monday morning no-knock raid on Cohen’s office and homes was unsettling — an intrusion, perhaps, on lawyer-client privilege. But how abnormal was it by Cohen-Trump standards?

Cohen has been unflagging in his public loyalty to Trump, famously vowing he’d take a bullet for his employer and is often referred to as Trump’s “pit bull.” One of the lawyer’s best-known performances involved threats to a Daily Beast journalist who was investigating a story that Trump insisted was a lie. “I will take you for every penny you still don’t have,” Cohen screamed at the journalist over the phone, “… So I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”

There are many, many more quotes like this one. Cohen has made them his signature.

Compare this to the gang Nixon relied on for his escape. Nixon’s guys certainly did nefarious deeds, but they weren’t really born or bred for their chosen line of work. They might have stuffed ballot boxes in college student elections or smeared opponents in fierce and dirty political campaigns, but they had hesitations. Their criminal instincts were attenuated. They weren’t really built for cover-ups.

Nixon’s guys certainly did nefarious deeds, but arguably they weren’t really born or bred for their chosen line of work. They weren’t really built for cover-ups.

Consider one of Nixon’s most zealous Watergate “plumbers,” G. Gordon Liddy, a Fordham graduate who served in the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover — not a bad training ground for skullduggery. Liddy had the most operational experience of Nixon’s group, yet his proposed dirty tricks sound less monstrous than banal — entrapping Democratic officials with prostitutes, for example.

Nixon had no one on his roster like Michael Cohen. After law school, Cohen became a personal injury lawyer. Later, perhaps through his Ukrainian-American father-in-law, who owned taxicabs, Cohen got into the business himself. Nixon also had no longtime personal bodyguard like Keith Schiller, whom Stormy Daniels said would sometimes answer the phone when she called Trump’s direct office line. Trump quickly shifted Schiller into the White House and ultimately sent him to fire FBI Director James Comey.

Instead, Nixon had Jeb Magruder, Egil “Bud” Krogh and, of course, Charles Colson. Above them were Attorney General John Mitchell, counselor John Ehrlichman, and Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman. These guys came from backgrounds where the knuckles weren’t so bare.

They had respectable, conventional backstories: colleges like Brown and University of California, Los Angeles; law schools like Georgetown and Stanford. Haldeman worked at an elite Madison Avenue advertising agency before joining Nixon’s campaign. Ehrlichman had been a land use attorney in Seattle. Colson was an aide to the assistant secretary of the Navy, a more or less buttoned-down Washington lawyer, although he would ultimately scheme about firebombing the Brookings Institution.

In carrying out the Watergate coverup, Oval Office tapes later revealed, Nixon, Haldeman and Ehrlichman would go around and around the same questions. This meandering was partly because Nixon shrank from firing his two top aides — he wanted them to conclude on their own that they should resign. They never did.

When Nixon finally bit the bullet and got rid of them, during a Camp David trip in the spring of 1973, Ehrlichman was bitter. He told Nixon, as Ehrlichman later wrote in his memoirs, that he wanted the president to explain to his children why he had been fired.

It’s extremely doubtful that Cohen would say anything like this to Trump.

Instead, Cohen reminds me of when a federal judge I knew was presiding over the trial of an infamous mob boss. I walked into the judge’s chambers one day and saw a guy sitting in the outer office, looking bored and on edge at the same time. It was the judge’s bodyguard, part of a round-the-clock protection detail assigned to him while the trial was going on, and for who knew how long afterwards. The bodyguard personified the difference between people who dabble in threats — and people who do it for a living.

The Trump-Cohen arrangement was designed by people who make a living out of threats and defiance.

The Trump-Cohen arrangement was designed by people who make a living out of threats and defiance. It’s consistent with what we know about a candidate who insists he can just refuse to release his tax returns, a nominee who says out loud, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails,” a president who, even as you read this, is openly raking in dollars from the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

So will the combination of Trump’s calculations and Cohen’s loyalty carry the president through the storm? It remains to be seen. Up against these major league players, we have the major league players of the Robert Mueller investigation. What is clear is that compared with all these guys, Nixon’s gang wasn’t even in the running.

Suzanne Garment, a lawyer, is the author of “Scandal: The Culture of Mistrust in American Politics.”

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La Palma: Residents in limbo as pressure in the Cumbre Vieja volcano drops – but eruption threat remains | World News

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Thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes to escape rivers of lava cascading from La Palma’s erupting volcano.

But 160 of them will now be allowed to return, after local authorities said their houses were no longer in the path of the molten streams moving down the side of the Cumbre Vieja volcano range.

The rest of the evacuees will have to wait, including Eliza Gonzales.

Eliza Gonzales with her dog, Luna
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Eliza Gonzales has been separated from her dog Luna

I met her at an improvised animal sanctuary on the island. She had come to see her dog Luna. They’ve been separated for days.

Ms Gonzales was told she had to leave Luna behind when she fled her home.

Thankfully the rescue centre called to tell her they had saved Luna. But the reunion is bittersweet. Ms Gonzales is staying in temporary accommodation and no dogs are allowed.

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What’s next for La Palma?

“It’s very bad,” she says.

Luna will be fostered while Ms Gonzales waits to go back home.

“I’m happy there are good people that offered their houses for the dogs to stay in and be calm.”

There are several dogs at the sanctuary, waiting for their owners to come for them. They all bark whenever someone new arrives.

But the centre can only care for abandoned animals. Those who were badly injured during the eruption have to be taken for specialist care.

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Volcano eruptions ‘could last for months’

They rescued a goat whose udders were severely burnt and took it to the vet, hoping it can recover from its wounds.

Scientists say the pressure inside the volcano has decreased, but that doesn’t mean the eruptions are about to stop.

The experts can’t predict when the explosions of lava will end, they think it could last till December.

With each day that passes, people are becoming more desperate.

Volcanic dust is damaging the 'plátano' skin leaving farmers including Mr de Paz Perez fearing they won't be able to sell their produce to supermarkets.
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Volcanic dust is damaging plátano skins, leaving farmers including Mr de Paz Perez fearing they won’t be able to sell their produce

Ernesto de Paz Perez is a banana farmer. The plant is known as “plátano” here, they are slightly smaller than bananas from Latin America.

Mr de Paz Perez, 75, started working on a plátano farm when he was 14.

La Palma depends on the fruit for around half of its economic output.

Banana farmer Ernesto de Paz Perez fears there will be 'many losses' due to the damage caused by the eruption.
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Banana farmer Ernesto de Paz Perez fears there will be ‘many losses’ due to the damage

But the volcanic dust is damaging the fruit’s skin and farmers fear they won’t be able to sell their produce to supermarkets.

The eruption has also cut off the water supply to Mr de Paz Perez’s plants.

If it [the eruption] keeps going for a long time it will cause a lot of damage. If the plátano fields are not watered we will lose them. There will be many losses,” he said.

Elsewhere on the island they’re trying to get back to normal. The airport is open after closing because of an ash cloud, but flights haven’t immediately resumed.

The whole of La Palma just wants to repair and return to how their lives were before the volcano erupted, but when that will be, no one knows.

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Lewis Hamilton hails ‘magical moment’ as he wins 100th Formula One race | UK News

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Lewis Hamilton has spoken of the “magical moment” of winning his 100th Formula One race at Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, 36, used his driving and overtaking skills, and his strategic thinking in the rain, to fight back from seventh place on the first lap to a landmark victory.

He is the first driver to reach 100 victories.

It was his fifth win of the season and his first since the British Grand Prix in July.

“It’s taken a long time to get to 100 and at times, I wasn’t sure it would come,” the British driver said.

“It is a magical moment. I could only have dreamed of still being here, to have this opportunity to win these races, and to drive with such phenomenal talents this late on in my career.”

“I am so proud of everything we have done with Mercedes, on and off the track, and this is a special moment for everyone that has been part of it.

“My dad called me last night and he has always been that one to reassure me and to continue to support me. I feel incredibly grateful for the amazing support that I have had.”

The victory takes Hamilton two points clear of Max Verstappen in the title race with seven rounds to go.

It also denied Lando Norris of his first victory following a thrilling finale.

Norris, 21, appeared on course to keep Hamilton at bay, and become the youngest British Formula One winner.

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Vladimir Putin pictured fishing and hiking on Siberian forest holiday | World News

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The Kremlin has released pictures showing Russian President Vladimir Putin on a fishing and hiking holiday in Siberia.

Mr Putin, 68, was joined by defence minister Sergei Shoigu, his regular holiday companion, for the short break earlier this month.

Mr Putin visited the Primorye and the Amur Region of the Russian Far East earlier this month Pic: AP
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Mr Putin visited the Primorye and the Amur Region of the Russian Far East earlier this month. Pic: AP

The Russian premier stopped off for a few days after a working trip to the Primorye and the Amur Region of Russia‘s Far East.

He appeared relaxed while walking through meadows against a dramatic mountain backdrop, casually dressed in a khaki-coloured hat and jacket.

The Kremlin released the images of Mr Putin on Sunday, 26 September Pic: AP
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Mr Putin appeared relaxed while walking through meadows against a dramatic mountain backdrop. Pic: AP
President Putin leans against a tree in a forest on a short break earlier this month Pic: AP
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President Putin leans against a tree in a forest on a short break earlier this month Pic: AP

He took a moment to lean against a tree while staring into the distance in another shot.

And he couldn’t disguise his delight as he smiled proudly while holding aloft a fish he caught in a nearby lake.

Video footage, released alongside the pictures by the Kremlin on Sunday, also showed Mr Putin driving an amphibious vehicle through a river in the region.

Days after the break, the Russian leader was forced to spend a “few days” in isolation after dozens of people in his inner circle caught COVID-19.

Mr Putin was joined on the fishing trip by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu Pic: AP
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Mr Putin was joined on the fishing trip by defence minister Sergei Shoigu. Pic: AP

The outbreak prompted Mr Putin to cancel his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit.

He has had two shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and is feeling healthy, the Kremlin said.

The Russian leader is known for his love of the great outdoors and has often been pictured bare-chested in an apparent bid to cultivate his macho image.

Mr Putin on a fishing trip during a mini break in the Siberian Tyva region in August 2017 Pic: AP
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Mr Putin on a fishing trip during a mini break in the Siberian Tyva region in August 2017. Pic: AP

He was most famously pictured shirtless atop a horse on a mountain holiday in southern Siberia’s Tuva region in 2009 where he paraded his bare chest and his fishing prowess.

Mr Putin later stripped down to the waist before plunging into an icy lake as part of evens to mark Orthodox Epiphany in January 2018.

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