After months of investigation and media speculation into the outcome of former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been convicted and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has entered a guilty plea over illegal activities he conducted while acting in his capacity as Trump’s lawyer.
Paul Manafort was found guilty of tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to report a foreign bank account. The 69-year-old former lobbyist who made millions in dealings with Ukranian officials now faces possible decades in jail.
Manafort’s home and offices had been raided in May 2017 and had since been under investigation for fraud though the President continues to stand behind his former campaign chairman.
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 22 August 2018
Michael Cohen, on the other hand, has been thrown under the bus by the President for campaign finance violations. Cohen had been paying “hush money” to former adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal in exchange for their silence over affairs they had allegedly had with President Trump. The secret payments fell afoul of campaign finance laws.
Trump was significantly less kind to his former lawyer who he said he would not recommend the services of and that his former lawyer has lied in the past. Cohen now alleges that he has material information in relation to possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election.
As is now custom, the White House put out a more subdued statement via spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said: “As the president has stated on numerous occasions, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him in this and just because Michael Cohen made a plea deal doesn’t mean that implicates the president,”
Although the daily developments have had the appearance of the house of cards around Trump slowly crumbling down before him, it remains to be seen whether President Trump will be implicated in any conspiracy with the Russians.
One of the major questions that Trump will face is over a possible subpoena where he would be required to testify before Congress. If things get progressively worse for the President he may have to face impeachment hearings.
The two convictions are by no means isolated with three others within Trump’s inner circle having plead guilty to contacting and liaising with Russian or other foreign governments. These include former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, Manafort’s assistant Rick Gates and former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn.
Meanwhile, President Trump is now focusing his energies on his latest Supreme Court nomination, Judge Kavanaugh, who given the new revelations of Manafort and Cohen’s convictions will face a stiff nomination challenge. Senate Democrats for one have asked that the hearing for Kavanaugh’s nomination be postponed until Mueller has finished with his investigation.