In a setback to Trump, Cohen pleads guilty, Manafort convicted

Paul Manafort. File   | Photo Credit: AP

United States President Donald Trump was hit by a double whammy on Tuesday as his former lawyer implicated him in a case of campaign finance violation and his former campaign chief was convicted of financial wrongdoing.

Paul Manafort, who led the Trump campaign during the Republican National Convention in 2016, was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the last presidential Election. A jury found him guilty of eight of the 10 charges brought against him.

Mr. Manafort was found guilty of bank and tax frauds and one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, by a jury in Virginia, in the suburbs of the U.S. capital. All offences took place before he joined the Trump campaign and none relates to links with Russia, but the conviction has given a fillip to Mr. Mueller’s ongoing investigation.

Michael Cohen, long-time lawyer and self-declared ‘fixer’ for Mr. Trump, pleaded guilty to tax and bank fraud and violation of campaign finance rules, allegedly at the behest of the President. The investigation against Mr. Cohen by U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York was also triggered by the Special Counsel’s findings.

Hush money for two porn stars

Mr. Cohen said he organised hush money for two porn stars, who allegedly had sexual relations with Mr. Trump, who directed him to pay them off. The 22-page plea deal admits this as a violation of campaign finance, as these expenses were not declared as such.

Mr. Cohen told a court on Tuesday that he made the payments “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” but the plea deal documents do not implicate Mr. Trump in the transaction.

Lanny Davis, Mr. Cohen’s attorney, said on Twitter: “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?”

Mr. Davis told CNN that Mr. Cohen has information that would be useful for Mr. Mueller’s investigation.

Sitting Presidents are not indicted, but Mr. Trump could be charged once he leaves office, according to several legal scholars.

Meanwhile, Michael Avenatti, lawyer for one of the porn actors who was paid hush money, said he would press for the President’s appearance in the court. The porn star is suing Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen for ending the contract that forced her to remain silent on her sexual ties with the President.

President is in a lot of trouble, says lawyer

“The President's in a lot of trouble,” he told CNN. “…and we're coming for him. I'm telling you flat out we're going to come for him. We're going to get this deposition."

The President responded to the Manafort verdict but had no word on the Cohen guilty plea until Wednesday morning. “Paul Manafort is a good man. ... It doesn’t involve me, but I still feel - you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened,” Mr. Trump told reporters ahead of a political rally in West Virginia on Tuesday night. “This has nothing to do with Russian collusion.”

Speaking at the rally, he trained his guns on the media and the investigation. “Fake news and the Russian witch hunt…Where is the collusion? You know they're still looking for collusion. Where is the collusion? Find us some collusion. We want to find the collusion.”

The White House said Mr. Trump’s outside legal team would respond to Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea.

Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s attorney, said in a statement: “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government's charges against Mr. Cohen. 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.”

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 3:18:33 PM |

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