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Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former fixer, returned to the stand yesterday to face lawyers for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, as well as Donald Trump’s legal team, in the case against the former president.

Cohen told jurors that he received monthly checks — most bearing the former president’s signature — that purported to be part of a legal “retainer” agreement, but that were in fact reimbursements for hush money he had paid to the porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleges that she had a sexual relationship with Trump. Cohen’s testimony was the first and only personal account tying Trump to the documents at the crux of his case.

In a barrage of questions, Trump’s attorneys sought to portray Cohen as an opportunist. Trump’s lead lawyer, Todd Blanche, pressed Cohen about his social media posts, his efforts to monetize his feud with the former president, his own criminal history and his desire to see Trump behind bars.

Analysis: The defense seemed to be trying to portray Cohen as, “essentially, Trump’s stalker,” my colleague Maggie Haberman wrote — a man once obsessed with the former president who was now equally obsessed with getting revenge.

What’s next: Trump’s lawyers indicated that they could call an expert witness and that they had not decided if they would call Trump himself.

Other details: In a blow to Trump, an appeals court upheld the judge’s gag order.

Russian security agents detained Lt. Gen. Yuri Kuznetsov, a senior general, early yesterday on an accusation of “large-scale” bribery, according to Russia’s Investigative Committee, a federal law enforcement agency. His detention came days after Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, unexpectedly replaced his long-serving defense minister, Sergei Shoigu.

Prosecutors said that General Kuznetsov received a bribe from “commercial interests” between 2021 and 2023, when he was working on the protection of state secrets. The prosecutors claimed that security agents discovered cash equivalent to $1 million and luxury items during a search of his home.

The U.N. has begun citing a much lower death toll for women and children in Gaza, acknowledging that it has incomplete information about the casualties during Israel’s war on the territory.

The organization now cites 4,959 women and 7,797 children killed, down from at least 9,500 women and 14,500 children earlier this month. While the total number of casualties — roughly 35,000 — remained broadly the same, a U.N. official said that the organization was awaiting more identifying information for about 10,000 of the dead, so they were not included in the new breakdown.

Background: The change came because the U.N. switched to citing a more conservative source for its numbers. The change has added fuel to a debate over the credibility of those figures, though many international officials and experts say that the numbers are generally reliable.

Gaza: Israeli military leaders have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of a plan for governing the territory after the war.

Britain’s butlers are still buttling — but not quite as they once did. These days, the role now involves not only polishing silver and folding napkins but also lifestyle management, akin to a private maitre d’.

Clients’ requests sometimes run to the unusual. “The client pointed toward the coastline and said, ‘Tonight I’d like to have dinner on top of that mountain — please arrange it,’” one veteran butler said. A local restaurant was called, then dinner and table settings for six were flown in with a helicopter.

Lives lived: Alice Munro, the Canadian writer and Nobel laureate who was widely considered a master of the short story, has died. She was 92.

P.G.A. Championship: The story of Akshay Bhatia begins at Valhalla.

New York City’s streets have always bustled, but lately they’re almost dangerously unlivable.

Residents clash over traffic, parking and heaps of trash. Cars and taxis vie for space, as buses swerve to avoid trucks parked in bike lanes. E-bikes are everywhere. Far fewer pedestrians get killed by motorists these days, but last year was the deadliest for cyclists since 1999.

“All of this stuff is trying to fit into a grid that was designed in 1811,” my colleague Dodai Stewart explains in a video. Relief may be on the way: The city is about to enact the nation’s first congestion pricing plan, which would charge most drivers $15 to enter much of Manhattan below 60th Street.

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