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The Latest Headlines From Around the World

    A shooting attack near a West Bank settlement on Thursday killed at least two Israelis and critically wounded another two, Israel's rescue service said. The deaths extend a violent week that began with a shooting outside a West Bank settlement on Sunday, resulting in the death of a baby who was delivered prematurely following the weekend attack, and continued with the killing of two Palestinians wanted in that and another attack on Israelis in the West Bank. Eli Bin, the head of Israel's Magen David Adom service, told Israeli Army Radio that two people were killed in the shooting, which occurred at a location about a ten-minute drive south from the place of Sunday's attack. Their identities were not immediately known. A later statement from the service said paramedics arrived at a bus stop to find four 'youngsters' with gunshot wounds. Israeli media reported that a passing car opened fire outside the settlement, but it was not clear if the gunmen had fled the scene or were stopped. The Israeli military had no additional information. While the West Bank experiences occasional deadly violence, often between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters, much of the Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent months has been limited to the Gaza Strip, where some 175 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in border protests. 'In recent days, we definitely feel like the situation (in the West Bank) is getting worse,' Shalom Galil, a paramedic who assisted at the scene of the shooting, told Israeli Army Radio. The shooting comes hours after Israeli security forces tracked down and killed a Palestinian accused of killing two Israelis. Israeli police said Ashraf Naalweh was found armed near the West Bank city of Nablus and was killed during an arrest raid. Israel accuses Naalweh of shooting to death two Israelis and wounding another at an attack on a West Bank industrial zone in October. He fled the scene and Israeli forces have been searching for him since. 'Israel's long arm will reach anyone who harms Israeli citizens,' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Police said it had made a number of arrests in its attempt to hunt down Naalweh and suspected he was planning on carrying out another attack. On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed Salah Barghouti, a Palestinian suspect wanted in the drive-by shooting earlier this week at a West Bank bus stop. In Sunday night's attack, assailants in a Palestinian vehicle opened fire at a bus stop outside a West Bank settlement, wounding seven people, including a 21-year-old pregnant woman, before speeding away. The militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip said that both Barghouti and Naalweh were its members but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attacks the two carried out. 'The flame of resistance in the (West) Bank will remain alive until the occupation is defeated on all our land,' Hamas said. Also Thursday, police said an assailant stabbed two officers in Jerusalem's Old City, wounding them lightly. The officers opened fire on the attacker and he was killed, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Police identified the man as a 26-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank. It released security camera footage that shows the man lunging toward the officers and appearing to stab them.
  • A conservation group says Tanzania's agreement with Egyptian companies to build a huge hydroelectric dam in the Selous Game Reserve risks damage to an important wetland and could hurt the livelihoods of over 200,000 people who live downstream. The WWF group criticized the project after Tanzania on Wednesday signed a $3 billion deal to construct the Stiegler's Gorge dam in the Selous wildlife area, a UNESCO world heritage site. WWF says a thorough environmental assessment was not done as required by Tanzanian law, and urges Tanzania to first explore other renewable power ideas. Tanzanian President John Magufuli, however, says the dam will cover only a small part of the Selous. He also says a new electricity supply will help to reduce deforestation by people who cut down trees for charcoal.
  • The Latest on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (all times local): 11:55 a.m. The head of Israel's medical rescue service says two Israelis have been killed and two wounded in a shooting attack near a West Bank settlement. Eli Bin, the head of Israel's Magen David Adom service, told Israeli Army Radio that two people were dead following Thursday's shooting. He says another two, a man and woman, were critically wounded and were being taken to hospital. Their identities were not immediately known. The Israeli military had no immediate additional details. The incident comes as Israeli troops ended a two-month manhunt for a Palestinian wanted in the killing of two Israelis at a West Bank industrial zone in October. On Wednesday, Israel also killed a Palestinian suspect accused of staging a shooting attack in the West Bank earlier this week. ___ 8:30 a.m. Israeli police say security forces tracked down a Palestinian accused of killing two Israelis and shot and killed him, following a two-month manhunt. Police say Ashraf Naalweh was armed when he was found and that he was killed during the arrest raid early on Thursday near the West Bank city of Nablus. Naalweh fled the scene of a West Bank industrial zone in October after shooting to death two Israelis. Israeli forces have conducted a widespread manhunt for him since. On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian suspect wanted in a drive-by shooting at a West Bank bus stop, shooting him just hours after an Israeli baby delivered prematurely as a result of the weekend attack died. The militant Hamas group that rules Gaza said both men were its members.
  • The European Union's highest court has ruled that a fee all German households have to pay to finance the country's public broadcasters complies with EU law. The European Court of Justice decided Thursday the system, which allows broadcasters to enforce collection, doesn't constitute illegal state aid. Germany's long-standing fee system was tweaked in 2013 to make all households pay it, regardless of how many people live there or whether they have a television or radio. Previously, it depended on the number of devices in a household. The court said the change wasn't a problem. The monthly fee is currently 17.50 euros ($19.85). A state court in Tuebingen had asked the EU court about its compatibility with EU law. In July, Germany's highest court rejected complaints against the fee.
  • The French government spokesman says security forces are trying to catch the suspected shooter dead or alive, two days after an attack near Strasbourg's Christmas market. Benjamin Griveaux said on CNews television that more than 700 officers are involved in the manhunt for 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt. Police have distributed a photo of the wounded fugitive. The attack in Strasbourg killed two, left one person brain dead and wounded 12 others. The government raised the terror alert level nationwide and deployed 1,800 additional soldiers across France to help patrol streets and secure crowded events. Griveaux also called on the 'yellow vest' protesters not to take to the streets, as some members of the movement have planned a fifth round of demonstrations on Saturday across France to demand tax relief.
  • The Trump administration wants to see an increase in U.S. investment and trade in Africa as part of a new strategy aimed at countering China's growing influence on the continent National security adviser John Bolton is expected to lay out priorities Thursday for what the administration calls 'the continent of the future' during remarks at the Heritage Foundation. Critics are skeptical because it has taken so long into the presidency to announce the initiative and Trump has made disparaging remarks about a region that is home to 1.2 billion people. Addressing members of Congress on Wednesday, Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy warned of China's increasing economic, military and political influence in Africa, a continent with some of the world's fastest-growing economies and trillions of dollars' worth of natural resources. 'One of the things that really, really irritated me during my trips to Africa is you go to an African city and there is a stadium invariably built by the Chinese,' Nagy told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said African countries will benefit from increased investment by U.S. companies and projects that will create jobs and bring higher environmental and business standards. 'We must remain a positive alternative and make clear that engaging with the United States will mean greater prosperity and security for Africa,' Nagy said. 'Our potential in Africa is limitless.' Africa is facing a 'demographic tsunami,' he said, with the continent's population expected to double by 2050 to some 2.5 billion people, half under the age of 24. That is why, he said, it was important to create jobs and opportunities for them. Any renewed U.S. effort to counter China in Africa, however, will face some obstacles. 'The Trump administration has shown little or no serious interest in Africa and has gotten off to a rocky start in its relations,' Johnnie Carson, a former assistant secretary for African affairs during the Obama presidency, told The Associated Press. 'Unveiling a new strategy may give the administration an opportunity for a course correction, but only if it begins to take Africa seriously.' Congress passed legislation earlier this year creating a $60 billion international development agency, widely viewed as a response to Chinese overseas development programs. China opened its first overseas military base last year in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, the site of the only permanent U.S. military base on the continent. As Beijing and others seek to grow their military presence, the U.S. is pulling back. The Pentagon in November said it planned a 10 percent cut in the U.S. Africa Command's total force of 7,200 troops, to be carried out over several years, as its global focus shifts from counterterrorism to perceived threats from Russia and China. Whatever the Trump administration's new Africa strategy, perceptions are an immediate hurdle. The president is known for his reported unflattering remarks: comparing some countries to a filthy toilet, referring to the nonexistent nation of 'Nambia' and saying Nigerians — from Africa's biggest economy and a top oil producer — would never return to their 'huts' once they saw the U.S. His first tweet as president that mentioned Africa was an inaccurate claim about alleged white-owned farm seizures in South Africa. His only other tweet mentioning Africa praised his wife during her multination visit this year. While Congress has restrained some of his administration's proposed deep cuts in foreign aid, Trump has put forth no signature Africa project and there is no sign he intends to visit. In the meantime, 'China has been doubling down on Africa across the board with a dramatic commercial strategy combined with increased arms sales, linkages to political parties and cultural exchanges,' said Grant Harris, former senior director for African affairs at the White House during the Obama administration. 'The U.S. needs to show itself to be the better long-term partner to African states.' Jennifer Cooke, director of the Institute for African Studies at George Washington University, said the U.S. should avoid trying to be too transactional. 'We are not going to beat China at its own game, which is massive investments and in infrastructure and roads, ports, railroads and vanity projects,' Cooke said. 'What sets the U.S. apart has been a broader engagement, beyond government, looking at development, civil society and, frankly, serving as something of a moral authority on human rights, democracy and governance issues.' ___ Anna reported from Johannesburg.
  • Sweden's security service says a man has been arrested, suspected of preparing a terrorist attack. The SAPO agency said 'preparations for the suspected terrorist offense have been underway for some time' and added that 'there are international links.' The person was not identified. SAPO said in a statement that several raids were made early Thursday in western Sweden and several people have been brought in for questioning.
  • Britain's foreign secretary joined Yemen peace talks in Sweden on Thursday, as part of his efforts to help kick start a political process to bring an end to the country's brutal four-year civil war. Jeremy Hunt's office said he would be in the Swedish town of Rimbo along with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres for the final day of this round of the U.N.-sponsored talks. It says Hunt would also meet delegates from the warring sides — the internationally recognized Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. 'Yemen is the world's worst humanitarian catastrophe, and these peace talks represent the best opportunity in years to move towards the political solution the people of Yemen urgently need,' Hunt said ahead of his trip to Sweden, according to his office. 'I applaud the historic strides the U.N. special envoy has already made in bringing the parties together for the first time since 2016.' A day earlier, the U.N. raised expectations for progress in the talks held in the town of Rimbo, Sweden, saying U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths had given both sides a draft agreement for consideration. The document consists of a set of proposals, including one for a political framework for a post-war Yemen, the reopening of the airport in the capital, Sanaa, and a proposal for the contested Red Sea port city of Hodeida, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis dependent on international aid. The talks are set to wrap up later in the day with a closing ceremony and a news conference. The government, which is supported by a Saudi-led coalition that has waged war against the Iran-backed Shiite Houthis, said the next round of negotiations could take place as early as January. The U.N. draft proposal was not released to the media. A draft document obtained by The Associated Press earlier this week showed an initial 16-point proposal to stop all fighting and have all troops withdraw to the city limits of the key port of Hodeida, and later from the surrounding province of the same name. The war has pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 22 of Yemen's 29 million people in need of aid, according to the United Nations. The two opposing sides have for months been locked in a stalemated fight over Hodeida. An international group tracking the war said this week that the conflict has killed more than 60,000 people, both combatants and civilians, since 2016. Both sides have agreed at the talks to exchange more than 15,000 prisoners by Jan. 20. ___ Rohan reported from Cairo. Associated Press writer Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on Brexit (all times local): 9:10 a.m. Germany's main business lobby group says it's up to the British government 'not to waste any more time' and to secure an orderly exit from the European Union. The Federation of German Industries placed responsibility for avoiding a no-deal Brexit squarely on London. In a statement, the group's director general, Joachim Lang, appealed to 'those responsible in London to organize a majority to avert a hard Brexit as soon as possible.' Otherwise, he said companies 'will have to press ahead with implementing the necessary emergency measures for a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.' Lang said the withdrawal agreement Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to sell in Britain 'will help limit the damage on both sides of the Channel.' ___ 9 a.m. The pound has advanced further after British Prime Minister Theresa May won a confidence vote among lawmakers from within her Conservative Party. The currency, which slumped earlier in the week to 20-month lows after May pulled a vote on her Brexit divorce deal with the European Union, has recovered ground since it became clear would win the confidence vote and that she would not face another one from her own party in the next year. Traders think that means she may have more room for manoeuver in her dealings with Parliament that could mean Britain ends up having close economic ties with the EU after Brexit officially happens in March. Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, also said the defeat of her opponents in Conservative Party suggests that the 'risks of a 'no-deal' Brexit may well have receded.' The pound was up 0.3 percent in morning trading at $1.2679. ___ 8:30 a.m. Germany's foreign minister says he's relieved that Britain's governing party stopped short of creating 'total chaos' in the Brexit process, but is indicating that he still sees little chance of substantial concessions to London on its European Union divorce deal. Prime Minister Theresa May is expected at an EU summit Thursday after surviving a confidence vote by her party's lawmakers, many of whom loathe the agreement. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Deutschlandfunk radio that 'we now have another chance with Theresa May of her ... getting a majority for this accord, which is a compromise between both sides.' Asked what could be done to secure British approval without renegotiation or legal changes, Maas replied: 'Ultimately the British have to tell us that because, if there are proposals from Brussels now, no one can tell given the confusion in London whether it is enough to get a majority in the House of Commons.' ___ 8:10 a.m. British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking a lifeline from European Union leaders after winning a no-confidence vote triggered by Conservative lawmakers unhappy with her Brexit plan. May will ask the 27 other EU leaders at a Brussels summit Thursday for reassurances about the Brexit divorce deal that she can use to win over a skeptical British Parliament. The British leader scrapped a planned vote on the deal this week when it became clear she would lose. The bloc is adamant there can be no substantive changes to the legally-binding withdrawal agreement. On Wednesday evening, May survived a vote on her leadership from Conservative lawmakers by 200-117. The victory gives her a reprieve from domestic pressure but the size of the rebellion underscores the unpopularity of her Brexit plan.
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking a lifeline from European Union leaders Thursday after winning a no-confidence vote among her own Conservative lawmakers. May will ask the other 27 EU leaders at a summit in Brussels for reassurances about the deal that she can use to win over a skeptical British Parliament, particularly those within her party who triggered the no-confidence vote in the first place. Earlier this week, to great uproar in Parliament, May scrapped a planned vote on the deal this week when it became clear she would lose. The bloc is adamant there can be no substantive changes to the legally-binding withdrawal agreement but have suggested that there could be some 'clarifications.' On Wednesday evening, May survived a vote on her leadership from Conservative lawmakers by 200-117. The victory gives her a reprieve in that her own party can't have a confidence in her leadership for another year, but the size of the rebellion underscores the unpopularity of her Brexit plan. The vote confirms May's reputation as a dogged, determined political survivor. But now comes the more formidable task — seeking changes to the withdrawal agreement that can win support in Britain's Parliament. May's Brexit Secretary, Stephen Barclay, told the BBC that there were signs of 'positive' movement from the EU on the one issue that has proved the most intractable — the provisions designed to prevent the re-implementation of physical border controls between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU. Under this so-called 'backstop,' the U.K. would remain part of the EU customs union if the two sides couldn't agree on another way to avoid a 'hard border.' Lawmakers from all sides of the political spectrum don't like the backstop because the U.K. couldn't leave the arrangement without the EU's consent. 'There is movement, but the question is how do we ensure that that movement is sufficient for colleagues?' he said. 'But colleagues also need to focus on the fact that alternative deals also need a backstop.' Re-opening the negotiations to address the border problem also raises the risk that May could lose concessions on other parts of the deal, Barclay said. Among EU leaders there is sympathy for May's predicament — but also exasperation at Britain's political mess. Germany's main business lobby group says it's up to the British government 'not to waste any more time' and to secure an orderly exit from the European Union. The Federation of German Industries placed responsibility for avoiding a no-deal Brexit squarely on London. 'We appeal to those responsible in London to organize a majority to avert a hard Brexit as soon as possible,' the group's director general, Joachim Lang, said. 'Otherwise companies will have to press ahead with implementing the necessary emergency measures for a disorderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU.' ___ Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit crisis at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • As President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday by a federal judge, prosecutors in New York revealed that the publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid, American Media Inc., had admitted paying $150,000 to a former Playboy model, in order to insure that her story of an affair with Mr. Trump would not become public before the 2016 election. “AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York stated. The feds made clear the financial transaction was completed for only one reason: “AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election,” read the “Statement of Admitted Facts” agreed to by the feds and AMI. The candidate involved in the story was President Trump – the person helping negotiate the deal was Cohen, and the head of AMI was Trump ally, David Pecker. In the ‘Admitted Facts’ laid out on Wednesday, Pecker acknowledged having a meeting around August of 2015 with Cohen – and one unidentified member of the Trump campaign – in which “Pecker offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate’s relationships with women, by among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided.” That’s what happened with the case of Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who has claimed she had an affair with the President. In June 2016, McDougal thought she was selling the rights to her story to be published in the National Enquirer – instead, AMI was looking out for the President. “Following the interview, AMI communicated to Cohen that it would acquire the story to prevent its publication,” the feds stipulated about AMI’s role. The U.S. Attorney’s office announced that officials had agreed not to prosecute AMI for that $150,000 transaction on behalf of Cohen and President Trump, even though it amounted to a violation of federal campaign finance laws. SDNY says it reached a non-prosecution agreement with AMI in connection with the $150k McDougal payment. 'AMI further admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman’s story *so as to prevent it from influencing the election.'* pic.twitter.com/NpP1uGGyZC — Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) December 12, 2018 Pecker’s role in the McDougal story did not end with the $150,000 payment, as in the late stages of the 2016 campaign, Cohen moved to buy the ‘limited life rights’ to the McDougal story from AMI for $125,000. But in October of 2016, Pecker backed off – even after signing an agreement with Cohen which utilized a fake payment explanation through a shell company set up by the President’s personal lawyer. “At no time did AMI report to the Federal Election Commission that it had made the $150,000 payment to the model,” prosecutors wrote, saying that “AMI knew that corporations such as AMI are subject to federal campaign finance laws.” In other words – the feds saw this hush money transaction as a contribution to President Trump’s campaign – by keeping the women’s story out of the headlines. Reporters immediately went back to 2016 to dig up denials by AMI that it had been involved in these kinds of actions. American Media to WSJ in 2016: 'AMI has not paid people to kill damaging stories about Mr. Trump.' Fed prosecutors in 2018: 'AMI admitted that it made the $150,000 payment…in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate.' — Joe Palazzolo (@joe_palazzolo) December 12, 2018 The process is known as “catch and kill” – and was documented just before the election by the Wall Street Journal, and then in recent months by the New Yorker magazine. It was not immediately clear if AMI – and Pecker – were in a position to offer other important information to investigators about President Trump and/or his campaign. “The writing’s on the wall,” said Rep. Denny Heck (D-NV) of the President’s legal situation on CNN. “The walls are closing in.”
  • A Kentucky woman is behind bars after police say she killed her newborn baby. According to WKYT, Amber Bowling, 21, of Manchester, has been charged with murder after police say she hid the infant in a garbage bag, then threw the child 'over the upstairs banister' of an apartment building. Police said the baby, born Sunday, was found dead Tuesday morning, WAVE reported. According to the autopsy, the newborn suffered fractures to the cranium and ribs, as well as brain bleeding, WLEX reported. >> Read more trending news  Bowling, who was arrested Wednesday, is being held in the Clay County Detention Center, according to WAVE. Read more here or here.
  • With more evidence of election fraud still surfacing in the race for North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, the legislature in the Tar Heel State voted on Wednesday to give new powers to the state elections board, allowing the panel to call for an entirely new election – including a new primary – possibly allowing Republicans to field a new candidate for the seat in 2019. No action on the race – in which Republican Mark Harris defeated Democrat Dan McCready by just 905 votes – has yet been taken by the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which is set to hold a new hearing before December 21; the Governor must decide whether to sign this new bill by December 22. The actions by the state legislature came as new evidence has emerged of possible absentee ballot fraud, including charges that a GOP operative may have been in possession of hundreds of ballots, and that preliminary totals of absentees in one county were tallied before Election Day, a violation of state law. Well, looks like there will be a primary in the #nc09 after all #StayTuned pic.twitter.com/aDJXnURV1I — Michael Bitzer (@BowTiePolitics) December 12, 2018 Under North Carolina law as currently written, the board of elections can only order a new election with the same candidates involved – but Republicans are worried that Harris – who also faces questions about possible fraud in the GOP primary – might be too tainted because of his ties to McRae Dowless, who was running some kind of absentee ballot operation in rural Bladen County for the Harris campaign. While Harris lost the absentee-by-mail votes across the Ninth District to Democrat Dan McCready, Harris on 61 percent of those votes in Bladen County – even though registered Republicans cast only 19 percent of those specific ballots. Stories have also emerged in recent days from people who did work for Dowless, saying that he had hundreds of absentee ballots in his possession, something which is illegal under North Carolina law. Dowless has been accused of not only collecting ballots, but also possibly tampering with, and discarding them. While Harris has denied knowledge of any absentee ballot operation, the GOP winner has been quiet about the almost daily drumbeat of new information, save for a video statement made several days ago. BREAKING: We have obtained a photo of Mark Harris and McCrae Dowless together. The picture was taken in March at a political event in Bladen County. The person who took the photo has asked us to not identify them. #NC09 #ncpol @wsoctv pic.twitter.com/v4w9L6GwAa — Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) December 12, 2018 If the North Carolina elections board decides to hold a new election, it would probably take months for the primary and general election – leaving that seat vacant as the 116th Congress convenes in January. So far, Democrats have not indicated whether they will investigate the election fraud questions from the November election, along with questions about possible absentee ballot fraud in the GOP primary, which saw Harris win an astounding 95 percent of the absentee-by-mail ballots in Bladen County, as he defeated incumbent Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC). Pittenger has not said if he will run again, but has raised questions about Dowless and possible fraud.
  • Winning over the votes of a last rebel group of House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday evening that she would agree to serve no more than four years as Speaker of the House, accepting a plan from younger lawmakers in her party which would limit senior House leadership to a maximum of eight years in those high profile positions. “I am comfortable with the proposal and it is my intention to abide by it whether it passes or not,” Pelosi said in a statement, as Democrats planned a vote by mid-February on the term limit plan. Pelosi’s agreement seems to pave the way for her to bring on board a final group of Democrats who had demanded an overhaul of their party’s leadership in the House, which is dominated by lawmakers – like Pelosi – who are in their 70’s. “I firmly believe that the reforms we have advocated for will create advancement opportunities for the next generation of Democratic leaders and will strengthen our Caucus,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). “I have pushed for new leadership because I want to see generational change in the Democratic Caucus,” said Rep. Earl Perlmutter (D-CO). “We will support and vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House in the 116th Congress,” a group including Perlmutter and six other Democratic holdouts said in a statement. BREAKING: Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, a Democrat, says she'll serve no more than four years as House speaker, all but ensuring she'll be elected to the post in January. — AP Politics (@AP_Politics) December 12, 2018 While Pelosi had easily won a vote of House Democrats after Thanksgiving to be the next Speaker, there were still questions about whether she could secure 218 votes on the floor of the House in January. This agreement will seal the deal, as Pelosi said she would serve no more than four more years as Speaker. Pelosi is the first House member to serve as Speaker – then see her party lose the minority, and return as Speaker – since Sam Rayburn did that in the mid-1950’s. While Republicans in the House had embraced term limits for committee chairs, the GOP had not applied those limits to the Speaker. Pelosi had expressed confidence that she would be able to grind out enough votes to win a floor showdown as Speaker, but in the end, she decided to cut a deal to end any suspense. “Over the summer, I made it clear that I see myself as a bridge to the next generation of leaders,” Pelosi said in a statement, “a recognition of my continuing responsibility to mentor and advance new Members into positions of power and responsibility in the House Democratic Caucus.”
  • A federal judge in New York sentenced President Donald Trump’s former long-time attorney Michael Cohen to 36 months in prison on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to several charges earlier this year. >> Read more trending news Cohen, 52, admitted to lying last year to Congress in connection to a Trump Tower deal in Moscow after prosecutors with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team charged him with making false statements. >> Michael Cohen pleads guilty to making false statements to Congress He also pleaded guilty in August to eight charges including multiple counts of tax evasion and arranging illicit payments to silence women who posed a risk to Trump's presidential campaign. >> Trump was implicated in two felonies: What does that mean? Update 6:00 p.m. EST: President Donald Trump refused to answers questions about his former attorney Michael Cohen Wednesday after signing an executive order in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. CNN is reporting Trump ignored reporters’ questions about Cohen’s three year prison sentence handed down Wednesday in New York. CNN also reported, citing inside sources, that Trump is “seething” over the Cohen case and, again, called him “a liar.” Update 1:55 p.m. EST: Cohen prompted American Media Inc. to purchase the rights to Karen McDougal’s story about an affair she claims she had with Trump years before the 2016 presidential election, federal prosecutors with the Southern District of New York confirmed Wednesday. McDougal claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. The rights to her story were bought in August 2016 by American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer, the Wall Street Journal reported in July, McDougal’s story was never published. Prosecutors said Wednesday that officials previously reached a non-prosecution agreement with American Media Inc. Company officials admitted to making the $150,000 payment “in concert with a candidate’s presidential campaign and in order to ensure that the woman did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election. Cohen also paid adult film star $130,000 in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006. Prosecutors said Cohen was reimbursed for his payment to Daniels in monthly installments “disguised as payments for legal services pursuant to a retainer, when in fact no such retainer existed.” “Cohen made or caused both of these payments in order to influence  the 2016 election and did so in coordination with one or more members of the campaign,” prosecutors said in a news release. Update 12:45 p.m. EST: U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Wednesday that Cohen’s cooperation with prosecutors 'does not wipe the slate clean' of his crimes. Pauley sentenced Cohen to serve three years in prison for crimes including tax evasion, lying to Congress and arranging illicit payments to silence Daniels and McDougal. Cohen’s former attorney, Lanny Davis, said in a statement released Wednesday that Cohen “continues to tell the truth about Donald Trump’s misconduct over the years.” “Mr. Trump’s repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn facts,” Davis said. “Michael has owned up to his mistakes and fully cooperated with Special Counsel Mueller in his investigation over possible Trump campaign collusion with Russian meddling in the 2016 election.” Trump has accused Cohen of lying to authorities in order to get a lighter sentence and denied any wrongdoing. >> Cohen pleads guilty to 8 charges, says Trump told him to pay off Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal Update 12:15 p.m. EST: Cohen will be required to surrender to authorities on March 6 to serve the 36-month sentence handed down Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported. U.S. District Judge William Pauley III also required Cohen forfeit $500,000 and pay $1.4 million in restitution and $50,000 in fines, the news site reported. >> More on Robert Mueller's investigation  Update 12:05 p.m EST: U.S. District Judge William Pauley III sentenced Cohen to 36 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to eight charges in New York over the summer, Newsday reported. He was sentenced to two months for lying to Congress. The sentence will run concurrent with the New York sentence. “Cohen pled guilt to a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct,' Pauley said before handing down the sentence Wednesday, according to CNN.  Pauley credited Cohen for his cooperation with Mueller's team, however, he added that as an attorney, 'Mr. Cohen should have known better,' Newsday reported. Update 11:50 a.m. EST: Cohen said he takes “full responsibility” for the charges he's pleaded guilty to while addressing the court Wednesday. “This may seem hard to believe but today is one of the most meaningful days of my life,” he said, according to CNN. “I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen that I deeply admired.' Update 11:45 a.m. EST: Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Nicolas Roos said Wednesday that Cohen's crimes carried a 'tremendous societal cost,' CNN reported. “In committing these crimes, Mr. Cohen has eroded faith in the electoral process and compromised the rule of law,” Roos said. Update 11:35 a.m. EST: Jeannie Rhee, an attorney for special counsel Robert Mueller's team, said in brief comments in court Wednesday that Cohen provided investigators with 'credible information' related to the investigation into Russian election meddling, Newsday reported. 'Mr. Cohen has sought to tell us the truth, and that is of utmost value to us,' Rhee said. Update 11:15 a.m. EST: Cohen's attorney, Guy Petrillo, said in court Wednesday that Cohen cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office 'knowing that he'd face a barrage of attack by the president,' according to the Courthouse News Service. Petrillo said Cohen “offered evidence against the most powerful person in our country,” CNN reported. Update 10:55 a.m. EST: Cohen arrived at the federal courthouse in Manhattan early Wednesday ahead of an 11 a.m. sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge William Pauley III. Original report: Federal prosecutors in New York have asked that Cohen receive a “substantial prison term” of around four years, saying in a court filing last week that he'd failed to fully cooperate with investigators and overstated his helpfulness. Cohen’s attorneys have argued for leniency, arguing that some of Cohen's crimes were motivated by overenthusiasm for Trump, rather than any nefarious intent. >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: Feds: Manafort lied to prosecutors, Cohen should get jail time  The president has denied that he had affairs with either McDougal or Daniels, but prosecutors said Cohen orchestrated payments to the women at Trump’s direction. On Monday, the president wrote in a tweet that the payments were “a simple private transaction,” and not a campaign contribution. Trump said that “even if it was” a campaign contribution, Cohen should be held responsible. “Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me,” Trump wrote. “Cohen (is) just trying to get his sentenced reduced. WITCH HUNT!”  >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: Denouncing Cohen, Trump disputes campaign link to payoff of women A sentence of hard time would leave Cohen with little to show for his decision to plead guilty, though experts told The Associated Press that Wednesday's hearing might not be the last word on his punishment. Cohen could have his sentence revisited if he strikes a deal with prosecutors in which he provides additional cooperation within a year of his sentence, said Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit and Los Angeles. 'Few things spark a defendant's renewed interest in cooperating faster than trading in a pair of custom Italian trousers for an off-the-rack orange jump suit,' he said. The Associated Press contributed to this report.