Michael Cohen, former attorney for President Donald Trump, apparently reneged on his admissions for some of his alleged crimes, indicating that he only pleaded guilty to avoid dragging his wife through a prolonged legal battle.
The revelations came from a recorded March 25 phone call he had with actor and Cohen’s close friend Tom Arnold, the audio of which The Wall Street Journal obtained and published Wednesday. Although Cohen reportedly stood by his plea on campaign finance violations, which implicated the president over his alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels, he appeared to reverse admissions related to tax evasion and a charge related to a home equity line of credit (HELOC).
“There is no tax evasion,” Cohen said. “And the HELOC? I have an 18 percent loan-to-value on my home. How could there be a HELOC issue?” Cohen portrayed himself as a victim — noting how he lost his insurance, business, and law license — and lamented the lack of support he received after coming forward to law enforcement.
“I shouldn’t be alone anymore. I mean, after over a hundred hours of testimony, right, including seven-and-a-half hours of being beaten up on national television,” he said.
He also described his dedication to his wife, Laura Shusterman, and his intent to help her avoid legal trouble. “I love this woman. I am not going to let her get dragged into the mud of this crap,” he said before noting he wasn’t expecting the three-year sentence he received.
Cohen’s name made its way back into the news in April when Special Counsel Robert Mueller released his report on the Russia investigation. Mueller’s report made 14 criminal referrals, which included Cohen, who admitted to paying Daniels hush money just before the 2016 presidential election.
While Trump has denied wrongdoing related to that payment and another to Karen McDougal, Cohen stood by his guilty plea. “They had me on campaign finance,” he said in the call with Arnold.
During his call, Cohen appeared to describe the conflict he faced in turning on the president, whom he had served for a decade. “I needed to get the truth out there, and (it’s) very hard when you spend 10 years taking care of somebody and their family,” Cohen told Arnold.
“And look, I always knew, you know, who he was and what he was and so on, but it didn’t really matter because it’s — he’s a small microcosm of New York real estate. It’s very different when you start looking to seeing what’s happening now in the country,” he said.
Former mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s new attorney, labeled Cohen’s walkback “poetic justice.”
“Since Cohen began composing for the Angry Democrats he has demonstrably lied under oath in his guilty plea and his testimony to Elijah ‘I’ll throw the book at you’ Cummings,” Giuliani said in another tweet. “Report ignores all of this and provides no facts to evaluate Cohen’s credibility. One of many deceptions,” he said in an apparent dig at the Journal.
Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, told Fox News: “Nothing said by Mr. Cohen to Tom Arnold contradicts Mr. Cohen’s previous defense attorney, Guy Petrillo, in his sentencing memorandum to the presiding federal U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III back in December. I would also add the important words used by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and others, in describing Michael Cohen’s cooperation and testimony as ‘credible’ addressing the ‘core’ issues involved in his investigation.”
The White House did not respond for a request for comment.
Fox News’ Tamara Gitt contributed to this report.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday that President Trump’s conduct as described in the Mueller report was “unethical, unscrupulous and beneath the dignity of the office he holds,” but added that she was “not there yet” in supporting the initiation of impeachment proceedings.
In an interview at the Time 100 summit in New York City, Pelosi called impeachment “one of the most divisive paths that we could go down in our country” before adding that “if the path of fact-finding takes us there, we have no choice. But we’re not there yet.”
Pelosi made her remarks one day after telling members of her caucus on a conference call that there were no immediate plans to move forward with impeachment, saying: “We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts.” On Tuesday, Pelosi said that 177 House Democrats “were on the call for 87 minutes, 70 minutes at least of that was listening to the comments of 20 members who called in …”
“There are many ways to hold the president of the United States accountable,” Pelosi added. ” …This is about being totally free from passion, from prejudice, from politics It’s about the presentation of the facts, and when we have the facts, we’ll have a better idea about how we go forward.”
At least three Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, as well as former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro — have called on Congress to launch impeachment proceedings. Their demands have been backed by two prominent freshman Democrats, Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
On Tuesday, Pelosi played down reports of divisions among Democrats over the impeachment issue, saying: “There are some people who are more eager for impeachment, many more eager to just follow the investigation … I don’t think it’s a growing number [who support impeachment.]”
Shortly before the House Democratic conference call began, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify next month. Nadler also issued a subpoena last week for the full, unredacted version of the Mueller report. House Democrats have refused invitations by Attorney General William Barr to come to its headquarters and read a less-redacted version of the report.
On Tuesday, Pelosi accused the White House of “stonewalling” after lawyers for Trump sued to block a subpoena issued by the House Oversight Committee seeking the president’s financial records.
“This is a moment in our history,” the speaker said. “As I say, it’s not about politics. It’s about patriotism. It’s an existential threat, this administration, to our democracy in terms of our Constitution, Article I, the legislative branch [as] spelled out in the Constitution, the power of oversight over other branches of government, [and] the right to know.”
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.
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Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi encourages House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and “his minions” to continue their pursuit of President Trump “as if he’s the most significant threat to our national security instead of our adversaries.”
Turner added that it is “certainly interrupting real congressional work that needs to be done.”
“The intelligence committee should be working on issues such as Russia and China, North Korea and Iran” instead of focusing on Trump, he said.
Turner made the statements on “America’s Newsroom” a day after House Democrats participated in a conference call with party leadership to discuss their next steps after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report.
While some have pushed for impeachment, Pelosi, D-Calif., already has stated her opposition to launching impeachment proceedings, saying in an interview last week it would be “divisive” and “just not worth it.”
“The Constitution gives very limited authority for Congress to remove a president, impeachment. It requires crimes and high misdemeanors. The founding fathers could have drafted the Constitution to say that Congress could remove the president if they just didn’t like them. But that’s not the case. They cannot just put political party or their own political wishes above the electorate which viably elected the president of the United States,” Turner said.
Fox News is told by two senior sources on the private conference call that Pelosi and her leadership team were clear there were no immediate plans to move forward with impeachment. Well-placed sources said it was a spirited 87-minute call involving more than 170 Democratic members, including Schiff.
“We have to save our democracy,” Pelosi said during the call, according to the sources. “This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about saving our democracy. If it is what we need to do to honor our responsibility to the Constitution – if that’s the place the facts take us, that’s the place we have to go.”
Pelosi asserted that more investigations were needed: “We don’t have to go to articles of impeachment to obtain the facts, the presentation of facts.”
“In this instance, we see that Congress is now saying through Nancy Pelosi that they’re going to continue their investigations. Congress does have a limited authority in which to investigate the president. I think we’re probably going to see a lot of court interpretation as to where congressional authority ends and where it begins,” Turner said in response.
“You can’t just begin to investigate a president for the purposes of seeking reasons to remove him. In this instance, I think that people need to stop putting political party ahead of the interests of the American public.”
Turner added, “Congress needs to get back to work to see how we can improve the lives of the American public, not just improve their political parties.”
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Rep. Ro Khanna weighed in on the potential Democrats‘ push to impeachment President Trump, saying he thinks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others in his party “realize that the Senate is unlikely to convict the president” but added that it is still “important to hold the president accountable for what happened.”
Rep. Khanna, D-Calif., made the statements on “Fox & Friends” Tuesday, the morning after he participated in a conference call where House Democrats huddled with party leadership to discuss the next steps after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report. As some have pushed for impeachment, Pelosi, D-Calif., unequivocally stated her opposition to launching impeachment proceedings against President Trump, calling it “divisive” and “just not worth it.”
“It was a good call. Speaker Pelosi set the tone, she said we need to be deliberate and methodical. There shouldn’t be any rush to any judgment,” Khanna said on Tuesday.
“One of the things I think we can all agree about is the Mueller report’s conclusion that there was sweeping and systemic interference in our election by the Russians. I’m working actually with leader McCarthy and others to find some ways of protecting American democracy from future interference. And that’s a place I think many Americans would agree.”
He added: “Every American should be concerned if Russia did it last election whose to say China or Iran wouldn’t do it? I represent Silicon Valley. We need to make sure the tech platforms are working with law enforcement so that this never happens again and I think that’s a common sense area with where we can all work together.”
Leaders of the House Democrats backed off the idea of immediately launching impeachment proceedings against President Trump in the urgent conference call Monday evening amid a growing rift among the party’s rank-and-file members, presidential contenders and committee chairs on the contentious issue. Well-placed sources said it was a spirited 87-minute call involving more than 170 Democrat members.
Fox News is told by two senior sources on the private conference call that even House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters, an anti-Trump firebrand, told fellow Democrats that while she personally favored going forward with impeachment proceedings, she was not pushing for other members to join her.
Pelosi and her leadership team were clear there were no immediate plans to move forward with impeachment, Fox News is also told.
On Tuesday, when asked if he thinks the House Democrats should pursue impeachment Khanna said, “Not right now” adding, “I think what we need to do is have Bob Mueller testify, we need to have the committees do their work. We just got the report a few days ago or a week ago and the committee should do their work.”
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“I’m making the case that it would be a gift to the Republicans if they failed to let it go and move on. I think it will be a very dumb political move for the Democrats,” said Sununu on “America’s Newsroom” on Monday.
He added, “I think the Democrats are going to make a serious, serious mistake because I think the court of opinion is going to move strongly in the president’s favor as people find out the legal malice that was in Volume Two.”
“I think the more you read that, the more you understand that was Andrew Weissmann doing unethical legal malfeasance once again, the Republicans can point that out,” said Sununu who served as chief of staff from 1989-1991.
“I think when Lindsey Graham starts his investigation on the Clinton side of the issue, they will have a difficult time with dealing that. And the more and more they get into the weeds, the more and more the American public is going to understand how political they are.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is scheduled to hold a private conference call Monday with fellow Democrats in which the topic of the potential impeachment will be raised.
The planned call comes as the issue continues to divide progressive Democrats — who want Trump to face impeachment proceedings — and party leaders who warn of its political risks and backlash going into the 2020 presidential election, Bloomberg reported. The renewed push comes on the heels of Mueller’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Pelosi last month said she opposed impeachment, calling the process divisive and saying of Trump, “He’s just not worth it.”
“I think her mind is made up that she’s not going to go down that track,” said Sununu.
He added: “They’re going to get into the summer doldrums and there’s just going to be no way they’re going to find traction on this, they’re going to get burned.”
“When Biden gets into the race, the Republican line will be ‘Why did the Obama/Biden team not do anything about Russian meddling in 14 and 15?’ This is all quicksand for the Democrats. They might not see it yet but I think Nancy Pelosi might be seeing it,” Sununu said.
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The Mueller report is a 400-page, $35 million op-ed that amounts to an “impeachment report” for the liberal media and House Democrats, argued Mark Levin on his Sunday program, “Life, Liberty & Levin.” ‘
The Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election found “no collusion” between President Trump and Russia. The Department of Justice released a redacted version of the report in two volumes on Thursday.
Levin called the result a “pathetic joke of a report” that established nothing the general public didn’t already know and its findings didn’t warrant a “special investigation.”
“There’s no collusion, says the Special Counsel. That takes one sentence. It doesn’t take 200 damn pages. It doesn’t take $35 million dollars,” Levin said, referring to Vol. 2 of the report.
Despite the Democrats warning of a “Saturday Night Massacre” like President Nixon during Watergate, President Trump never asserted executive privilege to prevent documents or people around him from talking to Mueller. He was an open book,” Levin argued.
But after the report found no evidence of collusion, the Democrats, who had been discussing impeachment since the day after Trump was elected, pivoted to pinning obstruction of justice charges on the president, Levin said.
“This is an abuse of power by a prosecutor. This is the only prosecutor in the entire country who writes a report under justice department regulations, a report that is only supposed to go to the Attorney General, who then makes decisions about whether to release any of it. Or all of it, because there’s no requirement for this to be released at all,” Levin said.
The Mueller report is, essentially, Levin argued, “an impeachment report” that was written for the “media and the “Democrats in the House of Representatives.”
“They wrote it for CNN, they wrote it for MSNBC. They wrote it for Nadler and Schiff and all the other reprobates. They wrote the report for them,” Levin said.
Levin said the investigation “runs completely contrary to a civilized society” and a “constitutional system,” yet there is not a single Democrat member of the House of Representatives or “so-called news person” at any major outlet that appears to be concerned.
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Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a 2020 candidate for president, told Fox News on Sunday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election found “no collusion” between President Trump and Russia — and that it’s time for the country to focus on the issues that matter most to Americans.
Gabbard, a Democrat, told “America’s News HQ” that while she supported the Mueller investigation, “the conclusion that came from that Mueller report was that no collusion took place. Now is the time for us to come together as a country to put the issues and the interests and the concerns that the American people have at the forefront, to take action to bring about real solutions for them.”
She continued, “I don’t think that we should defeat Donald Trump through impeachment. I think it’s really important for us, in this country, to come together and have the American people vote to take Donald Trump out of office in 2020.”
Gabbard’s position came in direct contrast to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who last Friday called on the House of Representatives to start impeachment proceedings. Warren explained Saturday at an event in New Hampshire, “I know people say this is politically charged and we shouldn’t go there, and that there is an election coming up, but there are some things that are bigger than politics.”
Also Friday, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, another 2020 candidate, said launching impeachment proceedings would be “perfectly reasonable.”
Gabbard countered, “What I am worried about is the continued divisiveness and putting partisan political interests ahead of the interest of the people,” citing a voter’s concerns about making ends meet while struggling with the costs of health care.
The Justice Department released a redacted version of Mueller’s report last Thursday. Mueller wrote that he found no proof of collusion between Trump and Russia, and did not draw a conclusion over accusations the president may have obstructed justice.
For his part, President Trump tweeted on Sunday, “Despite No Collusion, No Obstruction, The Radical Left Democrats do not want to go on to Legislate for the good of the people, but only to Investigate and waste time. This is costing our Country greatly, and will cost the Dems big time in 2020!”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Leland Vittert contributed to this report.
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Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz said Sunday that CNN kept him off the network due to his analysis of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and claimed that the channel once booted him from appearing on air in favor of troubled lawyer Michael Avenatti.
Dershowitz made the claims during an interview with Howard Kurtz on Fox News’ “Media Buzz,” saying that he knew “for a fact” that CNN President Jeff Zucker nixed his appearances because of Dershowitz’s views on the Russia investigation.
“CNN, which used to have me on all the time, on Anderson Cooper, on Cuomo, on Lemon, as an analyst, as a centrist analyst, they decided no, no, it is okay to have extreme Trump supporters, because people just use them as a stick figure exhibits,” Dershowitz said. “What they didn’t want was a centrist liberal that went against their narrative.”
“Walter Cronkite could not get a job in the media today.”
CNN did not immediately respond to Fox News’ requests for comment.
Dershowitz added that if he were to grade the media on their coverage of the Mueller probe, he’d give them an “F.”
“Even with grade inflation, I just think the media comes off awful, terrible, for the most part. I think we are seeing an elimination of the distinction between the editorial page and the news pages in some of the leading media in the country, and that’s a shame. Walter Cronkite could not get a job in the media today,” he added.
In regards to Zucker’s alleged order, Dershowitz said: “I asked [Zucker] how come I am not on anymore, and he said, oh, no, no, no, you will be on, but since the summer I’ve never been on a single time. I have been on all of the other networks repeatedly. But clearly, they made a decision. They did not want my kind of analysis.”
What appeared to really rile up the Harvard Law professor was that CNN chose frequently to use Avenatti – over Dershowitz – for its analysis of the Mueller investigation.
“They had a choice of a Harvard law professor for 50 years who has been getting it right, a centrist liberal and who has credibility, or Michael Avenatti,” Dershowitz said. “And they picked Michael Avenatti.”
He added: “He became their go-to guy. Every one of his predictions turned out to be false.”
Avenatti, who previously represented adult-film star Stormy Daniels in her feud with President Trump, recently has become embroiled in a series of legal quagmires of his own.
Earlier this month, he was hit with a 36-count indictment that accused him stealing millions of dollars from clients, cheating on his taxes, lying to investigators and trying to hide money from debtors in bankruptcy proceedings.
Avenatti denied the charges on Twitter, saying he had made powerful enemies and would plead not guilty and fight the case. “I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me,” he tweeted.
The new charges did not include a New York extortion case alleging Avenatti demanded millions to stay quiet about claims he planned to reveal about Nike paying high school players.
Avenatti, 48, was arrested March 25 in New York on the Nike charge. Federal prosecutors at the time announced he also faced single counts of wire and bank fraud in Southern California, where he lives and practices law.
Fox News’ Howard Kurtz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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White House counselor Kellyanne Conway questioned on Sunday why Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not rule whether or not President Trump obstructed justice during the Russia investigation and argued that Mueller leaving the ruling open means that Trump has been exonerated.
“That’s not really the job of a prosecutor. The job of a prosecutor is to gather evidence and decide whether to indict or to decline to indict,” Conway said on ABC’s “This Week.” “They declined to indict. The president is not going to jail, he’s staying in the White House for five-and-a-half more years,” Conway said. “Why? Because they found no crime, no conspiracy. That was the central premise.”
In the redacted report released last Thursday, Mueller declined to make a decision on whether or not Trump obstructed justice with his efforts to curtail the special counsel’s investigation, but he did lay out in the report multiple episodes in which Trump directed others to influence or curtail the Russia investigation after the special counsel’s appointment in May 2017.
Those efforts “were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” Mueller wrote.
In one particularly dramatic moment, Mueller reported that Trump was so agitated at the special counsel’s appointment on May 17, 2017, that he slumped back in his chair and declared: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f—ed.”
In June of that year, Mueller wrote, Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversaw the probe, and say that Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest. McGahn refused — deciding he would sooner resign than trigger a potential crisis akin to the Saturday Night Massacre of firings during the Watergate era.
According to the report, Trump also ordered McGahn to deny a January 2018 New York Times story that detailed the president’s efforts to have his counsel fire Mueller.
Trump also made another attempt to alter the course of the investigation, meeting with former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and dictating a message for him to relay to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The message: Sessions would publicly call the investigation “very unfair” to the president, declare Trump did nothing wrong and say Mueller should limit his probe to “investigating election meddling for future elections.” The message was never delivered.
On the McGahn incident, Conway did not dispute the former White House counsel’s statement during her interview on Sunday, but she expressed her doubts that McGahn would have continued in his post if the events had played out the way they did in the report.
“I believe that Don McGahn is an honorable attorney who stayed on the job 18 months after this alleged incident took place,” Conway said. “If he were being asked to obstruct justice or violate the Constitution or commit a crime — help to commit a crime by the president of the United States — he wouldn’t have stayed.”
Conway added: “I certainly wouldn’t stay.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-NY, argued on Sunday that, despite Special Counsel Robert Mueller deciding not to charge President Trump with obstruction of justice, he believes there is still plenty of evidence of obstruction by the president.
Nadler, who filed a subpoena Friday for Mueller’s full, unredacted report, said that Mueller only restrained from charging Trump with obstruction of justice because of the longstanding Justice Department opinion that a sitting president can’t be indicted.
“Mueller says that although a thorough FBI investigation might very well show evidence of obstruction of justice with the president, ‘we’re not going to do that because of the Department of Justice’s legal opinion that a president, a sitting president, can’t be indicted and it would be unfair to lay out the facts justifying an indictment without giving the president the opportunity and a trial to clear his name,’” Nadler said on Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
He added: “[Attorney General William] Barr misinterpreted that, or misrepresented that I should say, to say they didn’t find obstruction. There’s plenty of evidence of obstruction.”
Nadler expects the Justice Department to comply with his committee’s subpoena for the full report by May 1.
That’s the same day Barr is set to testify before a Senate committee and one day before he is to appear before Nadler’s panel. Nadler also has summoned Mueller to testify by May 23.
A Justice Department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupac, called Nadler’s move “premature and unnecessary.”
Barr sent Congress a redacted version of the Mueller report, blacking out several types of material, including classified information, material pertaining to ongoing investigations and grand jury evidence.
Nadler last week said he was open to working with the department on accommodations, but he also said the committee “needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice.”
Mueller laid out multiple episodes in which Trump directed others to influence or curtail the Russia investigation after the special counsel’s appointment in May 2017, and Trump made clear that he viewed the probe as a potentially mortal blow — “the end of my presidency.”
Nadler on Sunday questioned why Mueller did not level charges against the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., for taking a meeting with Russian operatives in Trump Tower to allegedly get compromising information on Trump’s 2016 Democratic presidential opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I do not understand why he didn’t charge Don Jr. and others in that famous meeting with criminal conspiracy,” Nadler said. “[Mueller] said that he didn’t charge them because you couldn’t prove that they didn’t willfully intend to commit a crime, well you don’t have to prove that.”
He added: “All you have to prove for conspiracy is that they entered into a meeting of the minds to do something and had one overt act. They entered into a meeting of the minds to attend a meeting to get stolen material on Hillary. They went to the meeting. That’s conspiracy right there.”
The New York lawmaker also added that the idea of the House impeaching the president is still on the table even as some of his Democratic colleagues in the House have warned against any premature actions.
“If proven some of this would be impeachable yes. Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable,” Nadler said. “We’re going to see where the facts lead us.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has insisted on a methodical, step-by-step approach to the House’s oversight of the Trump administration, and she refuses to consider impeachment without public support, including from Republicans, which seems unlikely.
Speaking Friday in Belfast as Pelosi wrapped up a congressional visit to Ireland, she declined to signal action beyond Congress’ role as a check and balance for the White House.
“Let me assure you that whatever the issue and challenge we face, the Congress of the United States will honor its oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States to protect our democracy,” she told reporters. “We believe that the first article — Article 1, the legislative branch — has the responsibility of oversight of our democracy, and we will exercise that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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