Donald Trump has suffered a huge double blow after one of his former associates pleaded guilty and another was convicted of financial crimes, potentially leaving the president himself in legal jeopardy.
Michael Cohen, his longtime lawyer and “fixer”, pleaded guilty to eight charges including campaign finance violations and directly implicated Trump in paying “hush money” to women with whom he allegedly had affairs.
Just minutes earlier, Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, was convicted on eight charges of bank and tax fraud. The dual courtroom dramas set up a moment of rare peril for the president.
“This is the worst hour of Trump’s entire presidency – no, make that entire life,” tweeted Norman Eisen, a former special counsel to President Barack Obama for ethics and government reform.
The Guardian reports that the outcomes also raised grave questions about Trump’s judgment. Since his election, his national security adviser, personal lawyer, campaign chairman, deputy campaign manager and a foreign policy aide have all admitted or been convicted of crimes.
The cases arose from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Tuesday’s events represent a significant victory for Mueller, who has been under pressure from Trump’s supporters to wind up what the president calls a “witch hunt”.
In New York, Cohen claimed Trump directed him to make payments that violated campaign finance laws in an effort to stop Stormy Daniels, the pornographic film actor, and Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model, going public about alleged extramarital affairs. In entering the plea, Cohen did not name the two women, nor Trump.
Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, asked in a tweet: “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?” Whether or when a president can be prosecuted remains a matter of legal dispute. Trump has denied any knowledge of the payments at the time they were made.
CNN – Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court Tuesday to eight criminal counts, admitting that “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” he acted to keep information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle. The charges against Cohen, an attorney for Trump until earlier this year and a member of his inner circle throughout his presidential campaign, bring an end to a months-long investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. And they expose, through the criminal information filed against Cohen in court, that he acted with Trump and his allies, including David Pecker, the CEO of the National Enquirer’s publisher, American Media Inc., to suppress potentially damaging claims against the now-President. Though Trump himself isn’t named, the court filing refers to an Individual-1, who by January 2017 had become president of the United States.
New York Times – Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, was convicted on Tuesday in his financial fraud trial, bringing a dramatic end to a politically charged case that riveted the capital.
The verdict was a victory for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, whose prosecutors introduced extensive evidence that Mr. Manafort hid millions of dollars in foreign accounts to evade taxes and lied to banks repeatedly to obtain millions of dollars in loans.
Mr. Manafort was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining 10 counts, and the judge declared a mistrial on those charges.
FT: It was Robert Mueller’s best day so far, which meant it was Donald Trump’s worst. Minutes before his former campaign manager was convicted on multiple counts of fraud, the president’s former personal lawyer said he had been directed by Mr Trump to break federal law to cover up affairs with a former porn star and a model. Both men were convicted on eight counts. It provided the clearest signal yet that Mr Mueller’s investigation is closing in on Mr Trump. Read more