The Hill's 12:30 Report — Cohen to cooperate with Mueller | Trump blasts ex-lawyer as 'weak' | Trump scraps plans to meet Putin at G-20

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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.

 

The Hill's 12:30 Report: Cohen agrees to cooperate with Mueller | Pleads guilty to lying to Congress | Trump blasts ex-lawyer as 'weak' for taking plea | Mueller reportedly interested in late-night Trump, Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneGiuliani indicates Trump Tower Moscow discussions took place up until November 2016 Roger Stone challenges Dems to produce WikiLeaks evidence Google chief defends company during Capitol Hill grilling MORE calls | Fight over protecting Mueller ties up Trump court picks | Trump leaves for G-20 summit | Cancels plans to meet with Putin | Ryan questions California election results | How a gender-reveal party sparked a wildfire

 

NEWS OF THE MORNING

*Record Scratch* *Freeze Frame* -- You're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation:

Via ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Eliana Larramendia and James Hill, President TrumpDonald John TrumpReturn hope to the Middle East by returning to the Iran Deal Government shutdowns tend to increase government spending 'Full Frontal' gives six-bedroom house to group that works with detained immigrants MORE's former lawyer Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to a new charge in the special counsel investigation and has agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MOREhttps://abcn.ws/2RnrpeL

The charge: According to unsealed court documents, Cohen lied to Congress about his contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign. Details: "Cohen admitted to lying about Trump's Moscow property plans, including his travel and contacts with Russia in connection with the project and how long the property plans were discussed within the Trump Organization." More from The Hill's Morgan Chalfant: http://bit.ly/2BEXU2u

Read Cohen's plea deal: http://bit.ly/2DQMCd8

The other big news from the ABC report: Cohen has spent 70+ hours interviewing with special counsel Robert Mueller's team. https://abcn.ws/2RnrpeL

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Keep in mind -- this is not Cohen's first rodeo: Cohen already pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws in August, but today's development is the first charge by special counsel Robert Muellerhttps://cnn.it/2U2gBoe

Throwback: Remember when Cohen changed his tune from undying loyalty for President Trump to his famous quote last July: "I put family and country first." https://abcn.ws/2Kp8As1

 

TIMING:

--   On Monday, Mueller accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortIt’s time the UK cracked down on dirty Russian money Alan Dershowitz: Did Michael Flynn lie? Or did the FBI act improperly? Five things to know about the Trump inauguration investigation MORE of lying to investigators and violating his plea deal. http://bit.ly/2P7EsyW

--   President Trump recently sent Mueller his written responses to the special counsel's questions.

REACTION FROM PRESIDENT TRUMP -- OUCH: The president blasted Cohen as a "weak person." In Trump's words: "He's trying to get a much lesser sentence by making up the story," he said, adding "everybody knows about this deal." http://bit.ly/2RsdEvz

 

It's Thursday. I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to cmartel@thehill.com -- and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook.

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA PROBE

No good ever comes from a late-night phone call:

Via The Washington Post's Manuel Roig-FranziaCarol D. LeonnigRosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey, special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into late-night phone calls between then-candidate Donald Trump and campaign adviser Roger Stone during the 2016 presidential race. https://wapo.st/2QsTmEL

What this means for Trump's legal team: "The inclusion of the president by name in the draft filing rattled his legal team and indicated how closely the special counsel is scrutinizing what Trump may have learned from Stone about WikiLeaks' release of emails that prosecutors say were hacked by Russian intelligence operatives." https://wapo.st/2QsTmEL

 

ON CAPITOL HILL

Why the Mueller investigation is complicating Trump's judicial nominations:

Outgoing Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCorker dodges on Trump primary question The Hill's 12:30 Report – Cohen says Trump knew payments were wrong | GOP in turmoil over Trump shutdown threat | Kyl to resign from Senate at year's end Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force MORE (R-Ariz.) has threatened to vote against any of President Trump's court picks until there is a vote to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired. Now Republicans are looking for a way to diffuse the situation. What Republican leadership is doing behind the scenes: "Leadership is privately measuring support for the Mueller bill and a possible vote on the legislation to satisfy Flake and get him to drop his opposition to judicial nominees." http://bit.ly/2DOI5Id

MEANWHILE FROM THE PRESIDENT: Trump has been ramping up his attacks on the special counsel investigation. For example -- he tweeted: "Did you ever see an investigation more in search of a crime? At the same time Mueller and the Angry Democrats aren't even looking at the atrocious, and perhaps subversive, crimes that were committed by Crooked Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChelsea Clinton working on new children’s book about endangered animals GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander won't seek reelection GOP rep says there was a double standard in Flynn, Clinton probes MORE and the Democrats. A total disgrace!" http://bit.ly/2DRNFtu

 

Tidbit from the new member orientation:

"Told that a lot of the incoming freshmen class skipped an orientation event this am on constituent services." (Via journalist Matt Laslohttp://bit.ly/2P63YVq

 

This a.m. -- Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan releases ‘teaser trailer’ about series on push for tax reform The Hill's Morning Report — No deal in sight as shutdown looms GOP set for blame over shutdown MORE is skeptical about California's election results:

Via The Hill's Scott Wong, outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan(R-Wis.) cast doubt on California's election results as "bizarre." Why: It appears that seven Republican seats will flip to Democratic control. In Ryan's words: "We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every California race. This election system they have -- I can't begin to understand what 'ballot harvesting' is." Why it's making waves: It's a remarkable comment from the retiring Speaker and comes as Trump and other Republicans are claiming election irregularities in some states. http://bit.ly/2ShHeUo

Livestream of the event: http://bit.ly/2BFGkM1

 

IN OTHER NEWS

Trump leaves for the Group of 20 summit:

Before leaving for the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, President Trump told reporters he will "probably" meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite growing tensions over Ukraine. In Trump's words: "I probably will be meeting with President Putin. I think it's a very good time to have the meeting." http://bit.ly/2TUBly0

^NEW UPDATE -- EHHHH, JUST KIDDING: A few minutes after telling reporters he would meet with Putin, President Trump changed his mind. He tweeted: "Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting...." http://bit.ly/2PYMjEp

JUST NOW — REACTION FROM THE KREMLIN: The Kremlin said they weren’t notified of the cancellation of the meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. How they found out: Trump’s tweet. http://bit.ly/2rb02cm

 

Bad day for the media industry:

Via Recode's Peter Kafka, Mic is laying off the majority of its staff. "Mic CEO Chris Altchek announced the layoffs at a staff meeting this morning. Until today the company had employed more than 100 people. I've asked Mic to provide details on the layoffs, including the total number of people who will lose their jobs." http://bit.ly/2E45aaG

 

NOTABLE TWEETS

LOL:

Watch the tree lighting: https://dailym.ai/2P9oWCN

 

True that:

Keep in mind: This is the famous Mandarin duck that has been spotted around New York and New Jersey. Back story if you're not familiar: https://nydn.us/2RlfIFn

 

ON TAP

10:20 a.m. EST: President Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump rips Dems as shutdown looms | Congress deadlocked | Flynn associates charged will illegal lobbying The Hill's Morning Report — No deal in sight as shutdown looms Five things to know about the Trump inauguration investigation MORE left for Buenos Aires, Argentina.

11:30 a.m. EST: Vice President Pence spoke at the White House World AIDS Day Event.

8:05 p.m. EST: President Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 

WHAT TO WATCH

This morning: Outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) spoke at a Washington Post event. He has quite the beard these days. Livestream: http://bit.ly/2BFGkM1

12:45 p.m. EST: Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinNo glory in James Comey getting away with his abuse of FBI power Mueller’s real challenge Graham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee MORE speaks at Georgetown Law's cybercrime symposium. Livestream: https://cs.pn/2BGk98y

 

NOW FOR THE FUN STUFF...

Today is National Chocolates Day.

 

This video has 1.7 million views so far:

A service member returned from deployment and was greeted by her dog. Watch -- the dog's reaction is incredible: https://cs.pn/2BGk98y

 

This is so embarrassing for our country:

For a ~clever~ baby gender reveal party, an expectant dad shot a target that was supposed to reveal the gender of the new baby with either blue or pink smoke, but he accidentally ignited a 47,000-acre wildfire. Video of the colorful explosion -- omg: https://cnn.it/2FKZHHl

 

And because you made it this far, here's a viral video of a dog attempting to overcome its fear of jumping: http://bit.ly/2rdHBUg