It’s a bad day for President Trump, with both his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and fixer Michael Cohen guilty of felonies and looking at prison time.
Cohen, a lawyer who worked for Trump and paid off women that Trump allegedly had affairs with, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations on Tuesday. Over the course of the investigation into Cohen, it was learned that he received money from Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
The plea deal allows the attorney of adult film actress Stephanie Clifford (also known as Stormy Daniels) to depose Cohen. It also does not prevent Cohen from cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
More dramatically, it implicates President Trump directly in the crimes to which Cohen pleaded guilty.
Cohen committed crimes "In co-ordination with, and at the direction of" @realDonaldTrump . Thus, President appears to be co-conspirator and/or aider and abettor of a federal crime.
— Jeffrey Toobin (@JeffreyToobin) August 21, 2018
But the legal waters around the President got even hotter, when a jury also found Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty of tax evasion and bank fraud.
Manafort did himself no favors by lacking basic Microsoft Word competency, which seriously incriminated him on counts of bank fraud.
Ten more counts against Manafort were declared in mistrial and could be retried (jurors have until August 29 to decide). Manafort also faces charges of failing to register as a foreign lobbyist and money laundering.
Taken together, these two high-profile Trump consiglieres found guilty of the same crimes on the same day places the President in serious peril. The jail time and continuing legal battles Cohen and Manafort face could make cooperation with the Mueller investigation more appealing for Trump’s confidants.
And while two people in his inner circle being behind bars may prompt Trump to action, Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia) warned against possible pardons.
Any attempt by the President to pardon Mr. Manafort or interfere in the investigation into his campaign would be a gross abuse of power and require immediate action by Congress.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 21, 2018
Law professors have weighed in on the dangers to Trump pardoning people like Cohen and Manafort. Even Trump’s own team is cautioning him against issuing pardons to his inner circle.
“I have advised the president, which he understands: no discussion of pardons,” Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giulani said in July.
As the pressure on the President grows, his infamous unpredictability means anything could happen. But the likelihood of an attempt to get Trump to testify under oath continues to grow.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.