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Giuliani leaves law firm to focus on representing Trump in Mueller probe

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“In light of the pressing demands of the Mueller investigation, I believe it is in everyone’s best interest that I make it a permanent resignation,” Giuliani said in a statement. “This way, my sole concentration can be on this critically important matter for our country.”

The decision was first reported by The New York Times.

According to a source with firsthand knowledge of the firm’s internal discussions, Giuliani was the main topic of conversation as Greenberg Traurig began its annual conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, much to the dismay of the firm’s managing partners.

On Thursday, partners said they had finally had enough, having grown increasingly frustrated with how Giuliani has handled himself in the last couple of weeks — especially his “leave of absence” status from the firm, which allows him to collect the president’s legal bills personally, rather than through the firm. This has meant that Greenberg Traurig had to endure a reputation risk from Giuliani’s work and press appearances without the benefit of payment.

Giuliani previously told NBC News in an interview last week that it has not yet been determined how Trump will pay him, and said that he has offered to volunteer his services.

In a phone interview Thursday, Giuliani said that when he took on the role as the president’s lawyer, he initially thought it would be “part-time and quick,” but realized that “you can’t just jump in and jump out.” He called his departure from the firm “a mutual decision.”

Richard A. Rosenbaum, Greenberg Traurig’s executive chairman, confirmed Giuliani’s departure in a statement to NBC News, saying, “After recognizing that this work is all consuming and is lasting longer than initially anticipated, Rudy has determined it is best for him to resign from the firm.” The resignation became effective on Wednesday, the statement said.

Giuliani has caused a stir in a series of recent interviews, particularly one with Fox News’ Sean Hannity earlier this month in which he revealed that the president had reimbursed his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels despite the president previously denying knowledge of the transaction.

Daniels has claimed to have had a sexual affair with Trump, something the White House and Cohen have denied, and that she was paid to keep quiet just days before the 2016 election. In February, Cohen had said he used his own money to pay Daniels, and that Trump had not reimbursed him.

Giuliani’s revelation raised eyebrows because neither Cohen’s original outlay to Daniels, nor Trump’s repayment were reported to the Federal Elections Commission as contributions to a campaign that could have benefited from the performer’s silence.

The lawyer attempted to clarify his remarks last week, insisting that Trump had only recently found out that he had reimbursed Cohen and saying the payment did not amount to a campaign finance violation because it “was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the president’s family.”

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Murkowski reverses course, will vote to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, reversed course on Saturday and said that she now plans to vote in favor of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s final confirmation to the Supreme Court, which is expected to happen early next week.

Murkowski had initially said that she opposed voting on a nominee before the November election. Her vote in favor of Barrett all but ends any long shot hopes Democrats had of convincing some moderate and vulnerable Republicans to side against Barrett’s confirmation.

“I believe that the only way to put us back on the path of appropriate consideration of judicial nominees is to evaluate Judge Barrett as we would want to be judged: on the merits of her qualifications,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor Saturday afternoon.

“And we do that when that final question comes before us. And when it does, I will be a yes,” she said.

Murkowski, appearing to acknowledge that a vote for Barrett could be seen as a break from her previous opposition to a pre-election Supreme Court vote, said that she would still vote against a procedural hurdle on Sunday that will advance the nomination past a filibuster to the final vote.

“What I can do now is be consistent with the precedent that I have set for myself and oppose a process that I said should not move forward, and I’ve done that,” she said.

Murkowski opposed the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018. She is up for re-election in 2022.

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Brexit breakthrough as trade talks could enter crucial new phase next week

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BREXIT negotiations could go into a crucial “tunnel” phase as early as Monday as a trade deal looks to be within reach.

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Supreme Court sides mostly with Republicans in last-minute voting cases

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has faced a stream of last-minute appeals over election procedures since the spring, and most of the time it has rejected calls to allow less restrictive voting measures despite the pandemic.

That has generally meant that Republicans prevailed in seeking to block changes that would make it easier to vote, especially in casting mail-in ballots. Of 11 election-related cases filed as emergency appeals since April, Republican interests won in eight.

The court rejected Democratic efforts to lift an age eligibility requirement for mail ballots in Texas, or allow curbside voting and waive the witness requirement for mail ballots in Alabama, or suspend the witness requirement in South Carolina. And it put a hold on lower court orders that would have made it easier to get initiative measures on the ballot in Idaho and Oregon.

“I think a deference to the states is at work here,” said Edward Foley, an expert on election law at Moritz College of law at The Ohio State University.

That could explain why the court reached opposite conclusions on mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

On Oct. 20, the court rebuffed a Republican attempt to block a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that allows mail ballots to be counted if they arrive up to three days after election day. By contrast, the court granted a GOP request to block an extension on the mail ballot deadline that was ordered by a federal court in Wisconsin during the primary.

“The Pennsylvania case was coming from the state’s own judiciary rather than a federal court,” Foley said, and the state’s top election official was not supporting the Republicans.

Paul Smith of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, who frequently argues election cases in federal court, agrees.

“There seems to be some feeling on the Supreme Court that state election officials should be left alone to make their judgment,” he said.

At the same time, he added, that has tended to allow Republicans to prevail, limiting voting opportunities.

In August, the Supreme Court denied an effort by Republicans to block lower court rulings that suspended the witness requirement for mail ballots in Rhode Island, but state officials supported that rule change making voting easier. And in October, the court rejected a Republican appeal seeking to block ranked-choice voting in Maine. There, too, the change was endorsed by the top court in the state, not by a federal judge.

Two more rulings could come at any time ahead of Election Day Nov. 3 from the U.S. Supreme Court, on Republican efforts to block lower court rulings that extend the mail ballot deadline in the presidential battleground states of Wisconsin and North Carolina.

Judge Amy Coney Barret’s confirmation by the full Senate is expected Monday, so she could jump in and vote on any of those pending emergency appeals, as well as others that will undoubtedly come before Election Day.

The vote in the Pennsylvania case was 4-4, one vote short of the number needed to grant a stay of a lower court ruling. Barrett’s arrival removes the possibility of further ties.

A third factor may also be at work in the court’s unwillingness to allow last-minute rule changes.

When the court ruled for Republicans in the South Carolina case, maintaining the signature requirement for mail ballots, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that the Supreme Court has for years tended to disfavor such changes.

“This court has repeatedly emphasized that federal courts ordinarily should not alter state election rules in the period close to an election,” he wrote.



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