Michael Cohen, Syria, Valentine’s Day: Your Wednesday Briefing

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White House officials had previously said the investigation was underway when the accusations from his two former wives came to light last week. Here’s what we know about the events.

“A private transaction”

• President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer paid $130,000 from his own pocket to Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic-film actress known as Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Mr. Trump.

“The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone,” the lawyer, Michael Cohen, told The Times.

He has previously said that Mr. Trump denies the affair.

The lawyer’s involvement was first reported by Maggie Haberman, one of our White House correspondents. She recently discussed the art of interviewing, and gave her predictions for 2018.

Charges recommended for Israeli leader

• Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, the Israeli police said on Tuesday after a yearlong graft investigation.

He is accused of accepting nearly $300,000 in gifts, including expensive cigars, jewelry and Champagne, in exchange for favors. If he is charged, it would be a first for a sitting prime minister in the country.

“I feel a deep obligation to continue to lead Israel in a way that will ensure our future,” Mr. Netanyahu later said in a televised address.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, second from left, on Sunday. The recommendation of corruption charges against him has raised doubts about his ability to stay in office.

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Pool photo by Ronen Zvulun

Shaun White returns to halfpipe gold

• During today’s final run, the American snowboarder “opened up with a frontside double cork 1440 followed by a cab double cork 1440,” one of our reporters at the Winter Olympics writes.

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Your briefing writer doesn’t know what that means, but the combination helped White win the gold medal, his third in four Olympics.

Here are today’s results from the Games. You can find all of our coverage here.

Sam Manchester, a Times sports editor, is on the ground in Pyeongchang and sending messages to readers about what it’s like. Sign up here.

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Shaun White won the gold medal today over Ayumu Hirano of Japan.

Credit
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The Daily

Listen to ‘The Daily’: Republicans and the Deficit

President Trump has proposed a budget that would add $7 trillion to the federal deficit. Republicans are saying nothing.

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Business

“Stocks are too expensive.” Inflated prices could discourage work and capital investment, setting the stage for more inequality, our economics columnist writes.

A downturn in California isn’t likely anytime soon, economists say. But the state’s governor, Jerry Brown, wants it to start preparing.

Netflix lured the hit-making producer Ryan Murphy from 21st Century Fox in a deal worth up to $300 million.

U.S. stocks were up on Tuesday. Here’s a snapshot of global markets today.

Smarter Living

Tips, both new and old, for a more fulfilling life.

Bring positive energy into your home, no matter how tight the space.

Sex shouldn’t be painful. Here’s advice from a gynecologist.

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Roman egg drop soup is a simple midweek recipe.

Noteworthy

A fog of war in Syria

Four Russians, and perhaps dozens more, were killed in recent fighting between pro-government forces in eastern Syria and members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, according to Russian and Syrian officials.

The Kremlin has sidestepped questions, saying that any Russians who were killed were mercenaries, not members of the armed forces.

12,000 ways to say “I love you”

A collection of Valentine’s Day cards, from as early as the 1680s, features pop-ups, cutouts and Civil War soldiers.

Today is also Ash Wednesday, which coincides with Valentine’s Day for the first time since 1945. It’s a dilemma for those observing Lent: extravagant displays of romantic love, or fasting and self-discipline?

Price of privacy: $560 million

New Hampshire will not give a Powerball winner her money unless she lets her name be made public.

People are offering solutions, for a cut.

Dogs have their day

Flynn, a bichon frisé with powder-puff fur, was named Best in Show at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday.

Begging for more? Here are photos from the competition.

Finding a lost strain of rice

The search for hill rice led to Trinidad and Thomas Jefferson, and now to excitement among African-American chefs.

Best of late-night TV

Several comedy hosts are taking the week off, so our roundup is, too. It will return next week.

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Quotation of the day

“I looked around and saw my competitors, they’re all doing these quads, and at the same time they’re a head shorter than me, they’re 10 years younger than me, and they’re the size of one of my legs.”

Adam Rippon, a figure skater on the U.S. Olympic team, on pressures he faced related to body image and eating.

The Times, in other words

Here’s an image of today’s front page, and links to our Opinion content and crossword puzzles.

Back Story

Valentine’s Day is widely thought to mark a wine-fueled festival for courting couples in ancient Rome.

But in North Korea, Feb. 14 signifies a different kind of affection. On this day in 2012, Kim Jong-il, who led the country from 1994 until his death in 2011, was posthumously named a “generalissimo.”

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A tribute in Pyongyang, North Korea, to Kim Jong-il. The “Day of the Shining Star” is celebrated in his honor today.

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Kim Won-Jin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The announcement came two days before what would have been Mr. Kim’s 70th birthday, which is still celebrated in the country as “The Day of the Shining Star.”

The only other North Korean generalissimo is Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Il-sung, who began ruling in 1945 and received the title in 1992, two years before his death. The term is a clear cut above the “marshal” title held by North Korea’s current leader, Kim Jong-un.

The younger Mr. Kim may stay in power for decades, though, and he already has several titles: “Dear respected comrade,” for one, as well as “supreme commander” of the Korean People’s Army.

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Mike Ives contributed reporting.

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