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  • Mark Makela/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- James Wolfe, a former 30-year Senate staffer, entered a plea of not guilty in federal court Wednesday to making false statements.The government has accused Wolfe - a longtime Director of Security for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, who had access to classified information - of lying about passing non-public information to two reporters.One - Ali Watkins - was recently identified by her current employer, The New York Times. The indictment indicated the FBI had accessed a year of her records - including communications with Wolfe, with whom she was reportedly having a romantic relationship - when she worked for a previous news outlet.Wolfe was allegedly communicating with four reporters in total using an encrypted app.Defense attorney Preston Burton told Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson that he was concerned about a Justice Department press release on Wolfe’s arrest that contained “atmospherics suggesting he may have disclosed classified information. That has been compounded by some glib remarks by the President about Mr. Wolfe.”Burton said he intends to file a motion asking the court to impose a gag order on the case.“We’re going to vigorously defend Mr. Wolfe from this unfair and unjustified prosecution,” Benjamin Klubes, a second member of Wolfe’s defense team told reporters outside the court. “We intend to file a motion seeking an order from the court prohibiting the government including all levels - that means including President Trump - from making improper and prejudicial statements regarding this case.”After Wolfe's arrest last week, President Trump told reporters when asked about the aide, "I'm a very big believer in freedom of the press, but I'm also a believer that you cannot leak classified information."Klubes said, “I want to emphasize that there is absolutely no allegation that Mr. Wolfe leaked classified information.”This was the first known incidence of the Trump administration accessing reporter records in a leak investigation.“This raises serious questions about the First Amendment and freedom of the press,” Klubes told reporters.Under the terms of Wolfe’s release, he is prohibited from traveling abroad without prior approval of the court and must notify pre-trial services before he travels outside the Washington metro region. He is also prohibited from obtaining a job that requires handling classified information throughout the remainder of the case.
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  • Yana Paskova/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and problem solver, Michael Cohen handled both business and personal matters that ranged from the mundane to the highly sensitive.Now, sources tell ABC News Cohen is likely to cooperate with federal investigators, and his lawyers are expected to leave the case. The role Cohen could play in any investigation that explores President Trump’s conduct remains uncertain, but legal experts say he could emerge as a crucial source of insight to prosecutors.“He could be extremely valuable,” said Matthew G. Olsen, a former federal prosecutor and ABC News contributor. “He was not just a personal lawyer but also was President Trump’s so-called fixer for a number of years. So he would have had access to lots of very personal information involving his business dealings.”Those dealings cover the broad sweep of the Trump’s global empire – including several projects that have caught the attention of federal investigators. Cohen played an integral role in early discussions about a possible Trump Tower in Moscow – negotiations that were going on during the early months of the 2016 presidential campaign.Cohen has confirmed he attended a lunch meeting with a Ukrainian politician one week after Trump took office, where the two men discussed the potential for Cohen to share a Ukraine peace proposal with his contacts at the White House.And Cohen’s name appeared repeatedly in the now infamous dossier of unverified allegations, which included salacious claims about Trump, prepared by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. The agent, who was hired by an opposition research firm that was paid initially by Republicans and later by Democrats, alleged Cohen’s involvement in attempting to covering up contacts between Russian operatives and members of Trump campaign.Cohen fiercely denied the claims. In January, he tweeted “Enough is enough of the #fake #RussianDossier” before filing a lawsuit against Buzzfeed, the news outlet that first published the document – a suit he later withdrew.As Cohen faces the mounting pressures of a federal criminal investigation, and may be preparing to part ways with his initial defense attorney, there are a range of topics prosecutors may want to explore with him.“This is a deep intricate relationship built up over many years,” said Seth Hettena, the author of Trump/Russia: A Definitive History. “I think he’s dangerous in a bunch of different ways.”Most notably, Hettena said, Cohen could shed light on what, if anything, Trump knew about non-disclosure agreements reached with Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, two women who allege they had sexual encounters with Trump years before his presidential run.Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, entered into a then-secret agreement with Cohen less than two weeks before the 2016 presidential election.After the Wall Street Journal first reported in January on the hush-money deal with Daniels – which paid her $130,000 in exchange for her silence – Cohen claimed that he had paid her out of his own personal funds and that he had not been reimbursed by the Trump Organization or the campaign.On April 5, four days before the authorities raided Cohen’s properties in New York, President Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he didn’t know why Cohen had paid Daniels or where he had gotten the money to pay her. The president later acknowledged, in a financial disclosure form filed last month with the Office of Government Ethics, that he had reimbursed Cohen.Then there is McDougal, who in August 2016 signed a $150,000 deal with American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, that transferred to the company the rights to her story of an alleged ten-month romantic affair with Trump. The magazine never published her story. McDougal
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  • Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A new filing from the special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed on Wednesday identifies two former journalists and the content of messages former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a Russian associate sent them in February, just two days after a superseding indictment against Manafort.The 21-page document also names members of the so-called “Hapsburg group” – described by Mueller in the February superseding indictment of Manafort as "a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States.”According to the document, some of the key participants of the Hapsburg group are former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Belgian Judge Jean-Paul Moerman, head of the German Federal Chancellory Bodo Hombach and former Spanish NATO head Javier Solana.The exhibit containing the names of Alan Friedman, Eckart Sager, Konstantin Kliminck, and Hapsburg group members, was filed by the clerk in an unredacted form on Wednesday afternoon but was re-filed a short time later in a redacted form with those names hidden.Sager did not respond to ABC News' request for comment. Friedman was unable to be reached for commentThe existence of the text messages first came to light earlier this month, but the content of the messages was not publicly known until Wednesday’s filing. Last Thursday, Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling during the 2016 election, cited the messages in accusing Manafort and his Russian associate, Konstantin Kliminck, of witness-tampering.On Friday, Mueller filed a superseding indictment against Manafort that included Kliminck and new charges for obstruction of justice. Manafort faces two indictments in Washington, D.C., and Virginia on charges related to tax fraud and other financial crimes.The special counsel has asked a federal judge in Washington, DC, to revoke Manafort's current $10 million bail. A hearing on Manafort’s bail is scheduled for this Friday.Wednesday’s filing names Friedman and Sager – described in previous filings as Person D1 and Person D2 – as the recipients of Manafort and Kilimnik’s text messages.According to those filings, on Feb. 26, Manafort sent a Business Insider article, in which it is reported that he had been charged with paying European leaders who were part of the Hapsburg group, to lobby on behalf of Ukraine to Friedman. He then wrote. “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”In a series of messages sent in late February, Kilimnik asks Sager for assistance contacting Friedman.“Basically P" - referring to Manafort - "wants to give him a quick summary that he says to everybody (which is true) that our friends never lobbied in the US, and the purpose of the program was EU,” Kilimnik wrote to Sager after asking him to mention the messages to Friedman. He then writes, “If you have a chance to mention this to A." - referring to Friedman - "it would be great. It would be good to get them connected to discuss in person. P is his friend.”In April, Kilimnik reached out to Friedman directly in a message that said, “Hi. This is K. My friend P is looking for ways to connect to you to pass you several messages. Can we arrange that.”Manafort’s trial in Virginia is slated to begin on July 25. His trial in Washington is scheduled for September 17.
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  • ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday hailed the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of a baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple because it violated his religious beliefs."There are plenty of other people who will bake that cake. Give me a break!" Sessions said in a speech at the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center's Annual Leadership Mission in Washington, D.C. — a group that co-authored an amicus brief with other religious organizations in support of the baker."There is no need for the power of the government, no need for the state's power, to be arrayed against an individual who is honestly attempting to live out, to freely exercise his sincere religious beliefs," Sessions said, congratulating the group for the "victory."In a 7-2 ruling last week, the court disagreed with a Colorado court's previous ruling that the gay couple, Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, had been discriminated against based on sexual orientation and ruled in favor of the appeal by the baker, Jack Phillips. The opinion, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was hostile to Phillips' First Amendment rights and that his "religious objection was not considered with the neutrality that the Free Exercise Clause requires."Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.The attorney general's comments came ahead of his announcement of a new Department of Justice initiative aimed at protecting religious liberty.Last year, the Trump administration sided with Phillips, who owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., and issued an amicus brief arguing that forcing Phillips to bake the cakes "invades his First Amendment rights.""Phillips views the creation of custom wedding cakes as a form of art, to which he devotes his creativity and artistic talents," the brief reads. "... When Phillips designs and creates a custom wedding cake for a specific couple and a specific wedding, he plays an active role in enabling that ritual, and he associates himself with the celebratory message conveyed."Phillips maintained in an interview with ABC News last week that he said no to the baking of the cake itself and not to serving the couple."We serve everybody who comes in the shop. We just can’t create every cake they ask us to," he said and added that he would also refuse to bake cakes with a Halloween theme or ones with "anti-American" messages.
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  • ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, went after his fellow GOP senators for a second straight day Wednesday, saying he thinks his party is acting like a "cult" in the way it's backing away from doing anything it thinks President Donald Trump might oppose."It's almost becoming a cultish thing, isn't it. And it's not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be, purportedly, of the same party," the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman told reporters.Corker was expressing frustration about a bill he wrote that would require congressional approval of any tariffs imposed over national security concerns after Trump did so to justify steel and aluminum tariffs on allies.The measure has several Republican cosponsors but Corker has accused GOP leaders of preventing him from adding his measure as an amendment to a must-pass defense policy bill because, as Corker charged Tuesday, they say they're worried about upsetting Trump.“No, no, no, we might poke the bear' is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways: 'We might poke the bear. The president of the United States might get upset with us,’" Corker mocked his colleagues as saying.Asked about Corker's "cult" comment, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said, “I’m not going to dignify that with a response.”The bill currently has eight Republican cosponsors. None is facing re-election this year, all of them have been up either in different cycles or preparing to leave the Senate, like Corker.Corker also told reporters that he is planning to bring Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in next week for a hearing on the results of President Trump’s summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. He said Pompeo is also set to brief the full Senate.The Tennessee senator said hearing from Pompeo would be the surest way to get a true sense of what exactly was agreed to during the meeting, reports of which have varied."The president has a tendency from time to time to do something ad hoc that hasn't been vetted with people around him and then sometimes they'll walk those things back," he said.He also dismissed Trump’s optimistic tweet from early Wednesday morning declaring the North Korean nuclear threat gone.“That would be hyperbole,” he said. Asked if such language was appropriate, he added, “I mean, if you want to use hyperbole, that's a great example of hyperbole.”
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