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News Wrap: Cohen lawyer defends denials over presidential pardon

In our Wednesday news wrap, a lawyer for Michael Cohen defended Cohen’s denials that he had sought a presidential pardon. A letter to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chair of the House Oversight Committee, stated that Cohen hadn’t “personally” asked President Trump for a pardon. Also, Trump warned Republican senators not to oppose his national emergency over immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Our second major headline tonight involves Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chair.

    A federal judge in Washington sentenced him today to 3.5 years for crimes related to foreign lobbying and witness tampering. He already received just under four years prison time in a separate case. At the White House, the president was asked about a possible pardon.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I have not even given it a thought as of this moment. It's not something that is right now in my mind. I do feel badly for Paul Manafort. That, I can tell you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Shortly after today's sentencing, the Manhattan district attorney brought new New York state charges of mortgage fraud and other crimes against Manafort. William Brangham will have details on all of this after the news summary.

    In the day's other news: A lawyer for President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen defended Cohen's denials that he sought a presidential pardon. It came in a letter to Congressman Elijah Cummings, chair of the House Oversight Committee. The letter said that — quote — "At no time did Mr. Cohen personally ask President Trump for a pardon, as the president has claimed."

    The lawyer did acknowledge that Cohen sought to explore a possible pardon, before he broke with the president last June.

    Separately, members of Congress report that former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker told them today that the president called them while he was in office to discuss the Cohen case and federal investigations into Mr. Trump.

    Mr. Trump warned Republican senators today not to oppose his national emergency related to the southern border. He also nixed a GOP proposal to limit future emergencies. It was aimed at staving off a defeat for the president tomorrow, when the Senate votes on blocking his emergency declaration. The House already passed it, but the president has threatened a veto.

    California's Governor Gavin Newsom has imposed a moratorium on executions in the state. His action today means a reprieve, for now, for 737 inmates on the nation's largest death row. Newsom is a newly-elected Democrat and a longtime foe of capital punishment.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif.:

    It's not the question, the death penalty, of whether or not people deserve to die for their heinous acts. The question really is, do we have the right to kill? Do we have the right to kill? That's a deep, an existential question. I don't believe we do.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Newsom denied that he is defying his state's voters. In 2016, Californians narrowly supported a ballot measure that called for speeding up the execution process.

    In Nigeria, a three-story building that included a primary school collapsed in Lagos today with up to 100 children inside. There were conflicting reports of deaths, but dozens were rescued. Crews desperately combed the mangled wreckage all day, looking for signs of life. There was no immediate word on what caused the collapse.

    In Brazil, two gunmen attacked a school today, killing two teachers and six students before taking their own lives. It happened outside Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. The school housed elementary to high school grades. Police said the attackers, who were in their early 20s, used guns, knives and crossbows. There was no indication of what their motive was.

    The British Parliament has rejected a no-deal Brexit, with 16 days left until the deadline for leaving the European Union. The vote came a day after lawmakers had turned down Prime Minister Theresa May's proposed deal for a second time. Afterwards, she addressed the House of Commons with a voice hoarse From strain.

  • Theresa May:

    The legal default in U.K. and E.U. law remains that the U.K. will leave the E.U. without a deal unless — unless — unless something else is agreed. The onus is now on every one of us in this House to find out what that is.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Parliament plans to vote tomorrow on whether to ask the E.U. for more time.

    A judge in Australia today sentenced Cardinal George Pell to six years in prison for sexually molesting two choir boys in the 1990s. He is the highest-ranking Roman Catholic official convicted of child sex abuse in that long-running scandal. Pell is now 77 years old, and is appealing his conviction.

    A newly released U.N. report urgently warned that environmental ills are killing millions of people every year and getting worse. The report cites climate change, a surging human population and degraded land and air. And it says natural resource use more than tripled in the past 50 years. The report urges a transition to clean energy and greater waste reduction.

    Back in this country, the Pentagon has approved new limits on transgender troops. The policy largely bars troops and new recruits from transitioning to another gender. It also says that most must serve in their birth gender. President Trump initially ordered an outright ban on transgender troops.

    And on Wall Street, technology and health care sectors pushed the market higher. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 148 points to close at 25703. The Nasdaq rose 52, and the S&P 500 added 19.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": more prison time for the president's former campaign chairman; a new push for peace in America's longest war; why regulations continue to fail to limit the dangers of asbestos; and much more.

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