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Today: Michael Cohen in the Hot Seat

Today: Michael Cohen in the Hot Seat
Michael Cohen’s testimony could lead to numerous congressional investigations into President Trump's dealings. (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

Michael Cohen will go before three congressional committees this week. His testimony in the Democratic-controlled House, in particular, could lead to numerous investigations into President Trump’s dealings.

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Michael Cohen in the Hot Seat

Michael Cohen spent more than a decade as Donald Trump’s lawyer, fixer and attack dog. Today, he’ll begin a three-day gantlet of testifying before Congress, starting with a closed-door session with the Senate Intelligence Committee today, a public session before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday, and another closed-door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Given the public nature of Wednesday’s testimony about what Cohen now calls Trump’s “dirty deeds,” it could be the most damaging for a president since former White House Counsel John Dean helped bring down Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. But Trump’s allies have spent months bashing Cohen in an attempt to erase whatever credibility he has after having pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. This graphic breaks down what you need to know.

McConnell’s Senate Power Play

With nearly 1 in 5 Democratic senators now eyeing the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking to make life a little more difficult for President Trump’s 2020 challengers. On Monday, McConnell — the top Republican in the GOP-controlled Senate — forced a vote on an antiabortion bill that has no hope for passage. Trump quickly seized on the vote, accusing Democrats of supporting “executing babies AFTER birth.” McConnell is also expecting to push forward with votes on the sweeping climate change plan called the Green New Deal and “Medicare for all,” in a ploy designed to draw out divisions between progressives and moderates. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is expected to vote today on a resolution ending the state of emergency Trump declared to speed construction of his “big, beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexico border. A bipartisan group of 58 former senior national security officials has said “there is no factual basis” for Trump’s emergency declaration. But the big question again is what will happen in the Senate.

Trump-Kim 2.0

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be in Vietnam today ahead of their second summit. Current and former administration officials and Korea analysts think Trump will probably agree to declare a formal end to the Korean War, giving in to a long-standing North Korean demand. For decades, U.S. presidents have refused to do so, insisting Pyongyang needs to fully denuclearize first. But more than 65 years after the fighting stopped, does it even matter? An end-of-war declaration, unlike a peace treaty, would be a nonbinding agreement and largely a political statement. Yet some experts say such a move is dangerous.

Clearing the Weeds

Now that pot is legal in California and other states, officials are wrestling with what to do with marijuana-related convictions going back decades. San Francisco’s solution: Prosecutors teamed with the nonprofit Code for America to comb through digitized criminal records going back to 1975 and find more than 9,300 convictions they will move to expunge. Other jurisdictions, including L.A. County, are considering similar efforts, though some law enforcement groups are wary of such wide-scale expungements.

San Diego’s Growing Pains

San Diego has long called itself “America’s Finest City.” But like many cities across California, it’s dealing with the rising cost of housing. Now, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is proposing some of the most aggressive strategies in the state to promote apartment and condominium construction. But while the mayor, a Republican, and the City Council president, a Democrat, agree on the need for more growth, resistance to more urban development from many residents is building.

Will a Ride-Hailing Tax Equal Less Traffic?

Do you Uber or Lyft? L.A. County transportation officials are in the early stages of looking at a ride-hailing tax. The argument is that the services are making traffic congestion worse and don’t pay their fair share to maintain public streets. And, the thinking goes, Metro’s tax on Uber and Lyft could nudge commuters to carpool or take public transit instead of riding alone with a driver. But experts say the real-world outcome is riding a lot on the details of how such a tax is designed.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

J.R. Cash was born on this date in 1932, but it wasn’t until November 1955 that a record executive put the name “Johnny” on a single that would become his first, fleeting hit. Three months later, he had a song that established a trademark for his career: “Folsom Prison Blues.” And in 1968, Cash would record one of the most acclaimed concert albums in pop music history inside the walls of that California prison.

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Johnny Cash outside Folsom Prison in 1968.
Johnny Cash outside Folsom Prison in 1968. (Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

-- In Washington, D.C., Gov. Gavin Newsom had a series of closed-door meetings with top Trump administration officials, hoping to smooth tense relations with the White House that could obstruct federal assistance.

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-- An atmospheric river is expected to bring drenching rain and significant snow to Northern California this week, while in downtown Los Angeles, officials say this month has been the coldest February in nearly 60 years.

-- A Cal State L.A. plan to raise admissions standards is facing pushback from students and faculty.

-- Road to table? Roadkill could be allowed on dinner tables by 2021 if a state Senate bill proposal wins approval from lawmakers.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- Among the Oscars after-parties, Vanity Fair’s still reigned supreme. Jason Momoa even showed off his second scrunchie of the night.

-- Too soon? Here are eight movies we’ll be talking about at next year’s Academy Awards.

-- Weeks after John Lasseter was hired to head Skydance Animation, Emma Thompson pulled out of the Skydance animated film “Luck.” Her letter to company executives explains why.

-- “Flavorful Origins,” a documentary series available on Netflix, is an ode to the culinary traditions of Chaoshan. You might know it better as Teochew cuisine.

NATION-WORLD

-- Vice President Mike Pence promised that the United States would continue to apply economic and diplomatic pressure to induce Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to leave his country, but did not rule out the eventual use of military force. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government briefly detained and released Jorge Ramos, the star Spanish-language television journalist, during an interview with Maduro.

-- Trump has announced that American citizen Danny Burch has been freed after 18 months of captivity in Yemen in what the State Department suggested was a rescue operation.

-- In Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif — a pivotal player in negotiating the landmark nuclear deal that Trump pulled the U.S. out of — took the unusual step of announcing his resignation on Instagram.

-- Australian Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial advisor and the Vatican’s economy minister, has been convicted of molesting two choirboys moments after celebrating Mass in 1996.

-- The Florida massage parlor where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is accused of soliciting sex from a prostitute has become a hot spot for selfie seekers.

BUSINESS

-- Shrinking tax refunds are a growing problem for the Republican-backed tax law.

-- The Securities and Exchange Commission says Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk should be held in contempt after violating his fraud agreement by tweeting material information about Tesla without prior review.

-- Emails show how a payday-lending insider tilted academic research in the industry’s favor.

SPORTS

-- In the competition to sign former Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper, the Dodgers aren’t considered serious contenders, columnist Dylan Hernandez writes.

-- LeBron James had some more strong words after producing the 79th triple-double of his career in a 110-105 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

OPINION

-- Does the GOP have enough principle left to end Trump’s bogus state of emergency? We’ll find out soon.

-- How Joni Mitchell and David Hockney make L.A. a better place.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

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-- In jails, addiction and mental health problems pose a particularly acute crisis. (New Yorker)

-- When the highest-paid Hollywood director was a woman. (Literary Hub)

-- Life beyond Earth: How scientists are trying to find it. (National Geographic)

ONLY IN L.A.

In Beverly Crest, a prime piece of land branded as the Mountain just got an avalanche of a price cut. After listing for $1 billion last summer, it’s now being offered at $650 million. Even with 35% off, it’s still by far the most expensive property listed in L.A. history.

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