On a nightmare day for the US President, his former 'fixer' Michael Cohen has entered a guilty plea to eight charges arising from payments he apparently made on Trump's behalf to alleged mistresses.
Cohen said he made the payments “under direction” of a candidate for federal office, assumed to be Trump. Further, he said the payments were made for the “principal purpose of influencing an election.”
In total, Cohen pled guilty to five charges of tax fraud, one charge of wilfully causing an unlawful corporate campaign contribution, one count of making an excessive campaign contribution and an additional count of making false statements to a financial institution.
Trump has always denied having any relationship with either Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal and denies having made payments to them.
Breaking News: Michael Cohen said in court that he paid Stormy Daniels “at the direction of” Donald Trump for the purpose of “influencing the election” https://t.co/jMXCZNHL13
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 21, 2018
Cohen said a payment of US$150,000, was made during “summer of 2016, in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Another payment of US$130,000 was made in or around “October of 2016, at the direction of the same candidate.”
Bail for Cohen has been set at US$500,000 and the sentencing date has been scheduled for 12 December. He has agreed not to challenge any sentence between 48 and 63 months.
His voice shook as he entered the plea and answered questions from the judge. When asked if he had consumed any drugs or alcohol, he said he had a single glass of Glenlivet 12-year-old the night before.
Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn't they be a crime for Donald Trump?
— Lanny Davis (@LannyDavis) August 21, 2018
On Twitter, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis said Trump had directed his client to commit a crime and should now face criminal charges himself. “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?” he wrote.
Trump’s current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told Politico the president was not implicated in the charges against his former counsel.
“There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen,” he said. “It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”
The words “coördination with” and “at the direction of” will haunt the Trump Presidency. https://t.co/VWZeDavQ6O
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) August 22, 2018
But Lawrence Noble, formerly General Counsel of the Federal Election Commission, said that Cohen’s guilty plea was the first time in almost half a century that a US President had been accused of infringing campaign finance laws. The last time was during the Watergate scandal that sunk Nixon’s presidency.
Noble said generally criminal prosecutions of all involved would follow from Cohen’s admissions but Justice Department policy is not to indict a sitting president.
Political implications for Donald Trump
Writing in The New Yorker, Adam Davidson opined that Cohen’s admission of guilt would be the beginning of the end for the Trump administration.
But whether Cohen’s admission is ultimately damaging for the president possibly rests on whether he has agreed to co-operate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Cohen had previously said his primary loyalty is now to his country and not his former client and close associate.
In a scene you couldn't script, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is found guilty on eight counts and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleads guilty to eight counts within minutes of each other. Trump is on Air Force One flying to a rally in West Virginia.
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) August 21, 2018
Another potential problem for Trump is the possibility that further details about the payment made to Stormy Daniels will come to light.
Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti said: “The developments of today will permit us to have the stay lifted in the civil case & should also permit us to proceed with an expedited deposition of Trump under oath about what he knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it. We will disclose it all to the public.
The developments of today will permit us to have the stay lifted in the civil case & should also permit us to proceed with an expedited deposition of Trump under oath about what he knew, when he knew it, and what he did about it. We will disclose it all to the public.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) August 21, 2018
“Buckle up buttercup,” he wrote to Trump’s current lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Cohen had once boasted that he would take a bullet for Trump but now he stands as one of the star witnesses in Mueller’s investigation and a source of potential political turmoil for the president as his business dealings are placed under increased scrutiny.
On a tumultuous day for the Trump administrations, the revelations at Cohen’s trial occurred only moments after Trump’s former Campaign Director Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight charges of financial crimes.
Header image: Iowapolitics.com