President Trump has been accused of committing a felony, according to a Friday memo filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
The memo specifically refers to payments Michael Cohen — Trump’s longtime “fixer” and attorney — made with campaign funds during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign to silence two women who said Trump had affairs with them.
George Conway, husband to White House advisor Kellyanne Conway, tweeted the section of the memo that says “Individual-1” directed Cohen to make those payments.
“In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” the memo wrote.
Is this the language you’re referring to? pic.twitter.com/6kmMY75goi
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) December 7, 2018
“Individual-1” is President Trump, as the memo indicates that “Individual-1” was eventually elected President of the United States. This means that President Trump is accused of directly authorizing illegal hush-money payments to Stephanie Clifford (Stormy Daniels) and Karen McDougal, which is a felony under federal law. Neal Katyal, the former acting Solicitor General of the United States (one of the highest-ranking members of the U.S. Department of Justice) tweeted that this memo would be the first time federal prosecutors have accused the president of committing a felony.
I think my reading here is correct. If so, it is the first time federal prosecutors have said they believe Donald Trump committed a felony.
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) December 7, 2018
Former federal prosecutor and CNN analyst Renato Mariotti tweeted that, to be absolutely clear, this does not amount to criminal charges against President Trump. In fact, the question of whether or not a sitting president can be indicted while in office is still a subject of debate among legal scholars. However, the prosecutors in the Cohen case had to include details about Trump’s alleged violations of federal law in order to provide complete information to the judge overseeing the case.
4/ That does *not* mean that Trump has been charged with a crime, or necessarily that he will. But it's a very big deal because federal prosecutors are required to provide full and accurate information to the judge about Cohen's criminal activity.
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) December 7, 2018
Prosecutors recommended a “significant” prison sentence for Cohen for crimes related to tax fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance fraud. President Trump, for his part, tweeted Friday evening that the memo “totally clears the President.”
“Thank you!” Trump added.
Totally clears the President. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.