Daily News Roundup

August 23, 2018

THURSDAY, August 23

The House of Representatives has been suspended as the Liberal leadership struggle descends into chaos.

With key ministers deserting Malcolm Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison looks set to run against Peter Dutton if another spill is called.

Mr Turnbull is not expected to stand when the new vote is held.

His support collapsed further this morning Senate leader Mathias Cormann headed a trio of crucial Cabinet ministers in withdrawn their support for telling him it’s time to go and hand over the reins of power to Peter Dutton, reports the ABC.

It was subsequently revealed that Mr Morrison would stand against Mr Dutton in any ballot.

Senator Cormann, a key Liberal powerbroker, said he believed Peter Dutton was the best person to lead the country to the next election.

“It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we went to see the PM yesterday afternoon to advise him that in our judgement, he no longer enjoyed the majority of support of Liberal members,” he said.

Mr Turnbull called a snap leadership ballot on Tuesday and won by 48 votes to 35.

Mr Dutton’s supporters were enthused by that result and have pushed hard ever since for another vote.

The bloodletting at the top came as Labor failed by one vote in an attempt to refer Mr Dutton to the High Court over his eligibility to sit in Parliament.

Senator Cormann said more Liberal MPs had told him since Tuesday that they had switched their support to Mr Dutton from Mr Turnbull.

“If my judgement on this is wrong I will go to the backbench and remain there,” Senator Cormann said.

“We cannot allow this situation to continue,” Senator Fifield said.

It is not clear how Mr Turnbull will respond to the latest developments.

Earlier this morning Peter Dutton said he believed Malcolm Turnbull had lost the backing of the majority of the Liberal party room.

Mr Turnbull rejected Mr Dutton’s demand to call another party room meeting in order to hold a leadership spill.

Later, the government moved to adjourn the House until next month.

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US President Donald Trump says he only found out after the fact about payments his then-lawyer Michael Cohen made to silence two women who said they had affairs with him.

In excerpts of a Fox News interview conducted with Mr Trump on Wednesday, the President said he knew of the payments “later on”, adding that the money came from him and not his campaign.

“My first question, when I heard about it, was, ‘Did they come out of the campaign,’ because that could be a little dicey,” Mr Trump said in the interview with Fox.

“And they didn’t come out of the campaign, and that’s big.”

He added that “it’s not even a campaign violation”.

Earlier, Mr Trump lashed out at Mr Cohen, saying the campaign finance violations Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to in federal court in New York on Tuesday were “not a crime” — even though prosecutors and Mr Cohen agreed that they were.

Mr Trump made the claim without offering any evidence.

In another tweet, Mr Trump said, “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen.”

Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

He told a federal court in Manhattan that Mr Trump directed him to arrange payments ahead of the 2016 presidential election to silence two women who said they had affairs with Mr Trump.

At the same time, Mr Trump praised former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted on Tuesday of multiple counts of fraud, as a “brave man” for not cooperating with federal authorities.

After first denying that he knew anything about the payments, Mr Trump earlier this year acknowledged that he reimbursed Mr Cohen for payments he made in late 2016 to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Daniels has alleged she had a relationship with Mr Trump.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders labelled all accusations that Mr Trump had lied about the Cohen payments as “ridiculous”, but did not offer an alternative explanation of when the President had learned about the payments, referring questions to outside counsel.

“The President has done nothing wrong. There are no charges against him,” Ms Sanders repeated.

“Just because Michael Cohen made a plea deal doesn’t mean that that implicates the President on anything

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A US trial court judge has affirmed the massive $US4.69 billion verdict against Johnson & Johnson in a case involving 22 women and their families who alleged the company’s talc-based products, including its baby powder, contain asbestos and caused them to develop ovarian cancer.

J&J in a statement on Wednesday said it would continue to pursue all available appellate remedies. The company, which denies the allegations and says its talc is safe, previously said it was confident the verdict would be overturned on appeal.

In a series of orders on Tuesday evening, Judge Rex Burlison of the Circuit Court of the City of St Louis in Missouri affirmed the jury’s July 12 decision in favour of the women, six of whom have died.

“The Court finds there is no just reason for delay and hereby certifies this judgment as final for purposes of appeal,” Burlison wrote in the judgments.

Defendants in civil cases can generally file so-called post-trial motions, asking the trial court judge to reduce a verdict or set it aside entirely, but J&J did not file such motions. It can now take up the cases with a Missouri appeals court.

The jury found the company’s talc-based products had caused the women’s cancer, awarding $US550 million in compensatory damages and $US4.14 billion in punitive damages to all plaintiffs.

Mark Lanier, a lawyer for the women, in a statement on Wednesday said he was confident the judgment would be upheld on appeal.

“We hope this judgment will compel Johnson & Johnson to take responsible, effective action in acknowledging the inherent dangers of the use of talc, and specifically the use of Johnson’s Baby Powder and similar products,” Lanier said.

The verdict was the largest to date arising from lawsuits alleging products like J&J’s Baby Powder cause cancer. The company faces about 10,600 cases across the US over talc, according to an August regulatory filing.

J&J has called the five-week St. Louis trial “fundamentally unfair” and its chief executive Alex Gorsky has expressed confidence the jury decision will be overturned on appeal.

J&J has been successful at having other talc verdicts in Missouri thrown out on appeal. A lawyer for the company told Reuters J&J would focus on jurisdictional arguments and put forth its case that scientific studies overwhelmingly show talc itself is safe and the company’s talc-based products never contained asbestos.

This daily news roundup has been curated with stories from ABC News. 

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