Here is the latest news from The Associated Press at 11:40 p.m. EST

By The Associated Press | Updated - Dec 7th, 2018 @ 9:41pm | Posted - Dec 6th, 2018 @ 10:40pm

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal special counsel says President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen was in touch as far back as 2015 with a Russian who offered "political synergy" with the Trump election campaign. Court filings by prosecutors from both New York and the special counsel's office laid out for the first time details of the cooperation of Cohen, a vital witness who once said he'd "take a bullet" for the president but who in recent months has become a prime antagonist.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department says President Donald Trump directed illegal payments to buy the silence of two women whose claims of extramarital affairs threatened his campaign. The allegation made Friday is the first time the government has connected Trump to what it says are criminal campaign finance violations. Prosecutors say ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen arranged the payments "in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump. The filing stops short of accusing Trump of committing a crime.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy says he hopes the guilty verdict in the trial of a man who drove his car into counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally will allow the city to move forward. Bellamy said the psychological damage caused by the event cannot be undone, but said he is hopeful the conviction of James Alex Fields Jr. can help the city heal.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A popular criminal justice reform package is dividing GOP members of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's blockade of the package has angered top senators. And it's created a rift with a longtime Republican ally, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa. Grassley spent years working to build a coalition around the bill and is pushing for a year-end vote. But McConnell says it's too divisive. It's a standoff that's splitting the GOP majority and putting President Donald Trump on the spot.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Changes made to absentee voting procedures in North Carolina may have emboldened workers to run the type of illegal "ballot-harvesting" operation alleged to have been used in a disputed congressional race. That's according to election experts and lawmakers. Some observers are concerned that the 2013 changes made it possible for so-called harvesters to collect unsealed ballots and manipulate them or throw out ones from minority voters. The 2013 law came amid a GOP push for voter ID requirements.

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