Friday morning news: December 14, 2018

President Trump says he never directed Cohen to break the law » President Trump reacted Thursday to news that his former personal attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison.

Cohen told a judge he agreed time and again to cover up Trump’s—quote—”dirty deeds” out of “blind loyalty.” But Trump told Fox News the only one guilty of wrongdoing is Cohen. 

TRUMP: Whatever he did, he did on his own. He’s a lawyer. A lawyer who represents a client is supposed to do the right thing. That’s why you pay them a lot of money, etcetera, etcetera. He is a lawyer, he represents a client. I never directed him to do anything incorrect or wrong.

A judge sentenced Cohen on Wednesday to three years in prison for tax fraud and for campaign finance violations for paying hush money to women who alleged affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 election.

And American Media Inc., the company that owns the National Enquirer tabloid now says it made hush-money payments to women for the purpose of helping Trump’s White House bid.

Senate defies White House, rebukes Saudi Arabia » The U.S. Senate on Thursday defied the White House to rebuke Saudi Arabia over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The chamber voted in favor of a non-binding resolution that calls for the U.S. to end its assistance to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen and to put the blame for Khashoggi’s death squarely on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

AUDIO: The results are 56 yays. The resolution is agreed to as amended.

U.S. intelligence officials concluded bin Salman was likely involved in the killing. But the Trump administration has argued there’s no smoking gun implicating the crown prince and that Saudi Arabia is too important an ally to risk alienating the kingdom.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued unsuccessfully against the resolution, saying it does not advance U.S. interests in Yemen or the Middle East in general. 

MCCONNELL: It would jeopardize U.S. support that has actually limited civilian casualties. 

It appears unlikely, however, that the House would be willing to consider the Yemen resolution.

Meanwhile, two warring sides in Yemen have agreed to a ceasefire. As part of the deal, the UN will establish humanitarian corridors and deploy supervised neutral forces to the port city of Hodeida. Yemen’s civil war began in 2015 between the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government. The unrest has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Nancy Pelosi agrees to term limits in bid to reclaim speakership » House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is set to make a comeback as speaker next year after announcing Wednesday she would limit her tenure in the role to four years. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg reports.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Within moments of her saying the magic words “term limits,” seven of Pelosi’s previous critics sent out a statement promising to back her as speaker.

Pelosi has to win a majority of votes for speaker when the new House convenes next month. She can lose no more than 17 votes from her own party, assuming all Republicans oppose her.

Pelosi was speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011 before Republicans took control of the lower chamber.

She struck a deal under which House Democrats will vote by mid-February to change party rules to limit their top leaders to four two-year terms in their roles.

The limits would also apply to the two other top Democratic leaders in the House: Steny Hoyer of Maryland and James Clyburn of South Carolina.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

Suspected Russian spy pleads guilty » A Russian woman accused of being a secret agent admitted Thursday that she conspired to gather intelligence on conservative political groups.

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors 30-year-old Maria Butina agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent.

Prosecutors say Butina and her Russian patron, Alexander Torshin, used their contacts in the National Rifle Association to pursue back channels to American conservatives during the 2016 campaign.

Prosecutors say it is “very likely” she will face deportation after her sentence is completed. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. But sentencing guidelines recommend zero to six months. She’s been jailed since her arrest in July.

Pastor, church leaders faces criminal charges in China » Chinese authorities have officially charged the lead pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church and sent him to criminal detention following a crackdown on church members. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has that story.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: Authorities arrested Pastor Wang Yi, his wife, Jiang Rong, and about 100 other church members during raids on their homes and church premises that began Sunday.

Wang’s 73-year-old mother said police brought her an arrest notice confirming that Wang is under criminal detention for inciting subversion of state power.

The pastor has no access to a lawyer and cannot contact family members. Authorities have kept Wang’s family under constant surveillance and they sent his wife Jiang into—quote—“residential surveillance in a designated location.” She’ll remain there in solitary confinement outside of the judicial system.

Several other church officials also face criminal charges.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

French police kill suspect in Strasbourg terror attack » French police on Thursday shot and killed a man they believe carried out a deadly terrorist attack near a Christmas market in Strasbourg earlier this week.

After a two-day manhunt, police spotted a “suspicious” person who matched the description of the suspect 29-year-old Cherif Chekatt.

When they tried to stop the man to question him, he opened fire on police, who returned fire, killing him.

As word quickly spread, onlookers applauded police who roped off the area where shootout occurred.

AUDIO: [Sound of attack]

While officials did not immediately release the identity of the suspect killed on Thursday, The National Police said in a tweet, “The assailant in the deadly Strasbourg attack has been neutralized.”

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) Michael Cohen, second from right, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, accompanied by his children from left, Samantha and Jake, and his wife Laura Shusterman, right, arrives at federal court for his sentencing for dodging taxes, lying to Congress and violating campaign finance laws Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, in New York. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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