The Emptywheel Show

Trump’s Pecker Got Him in Legal Trouble Before Conspiring with Russia Did
By emptywheel
August 21, 201

It was a three ring circus among top Trump advisors today: Jurors found Paul Manafort guilty on 8 counts (the jury was hung on the other 10); Michael Cohen pled guilty to 8 counts, and Mueller’s team continued Mike Flynn’s sentencing for 24 days, with a status report due September 17.

The big takeaway, however, is that Trump got named in a criminal information for his extramarital affairs before his conspiring with Russia did. [I’ve rewritten this headline, replacing “Dick” with “Pecker,” in honor of the National Enquirer’s role and so Democracy Now can show the headline tomorrow when I appear.]

Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty & Implicates Trump as Paul Manafort Is Convicted. Is Impeachment Next?

Talk of the possible impeachment of President Trump is growing in Washington after Tuesday’s stunning legal developments. In New York, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Two hundred miles away in Virginia, Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight charges related to tax and bank fraud, as well as hiding a foreign account.

The Cohen case is likely to put the president in the most legal jeopardy. Michael Cohen worked for Trump from 2006 until this year. He admitted in court he arranged to illegally pay out money to two women—an adult film star and a Playboy model—to keep them from speaking during the 2016 campaign about their affairs with Donald Trump. Cohen said the payments were made, quote, “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” and that they were made, quote, “for the principal purpose of influencing the election,” unquote.

Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, wrote on Twitter, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?” Davis later appeared on MSNBC and said Cohen is willing to speak with special counsel Robert Mueller about, quote, “a conspiracy to collude” with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. Davis also told The Washington Post Cohen knows about Trump’s participation in a criminal conspiracy to hack into Democratic Party officials’ emails during the 2016 election.

Michael Cohen becomes the fourth former Trump official to plead guilty to criminal charges. He joins former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s former campaign—deputy campaign manager Rick Gates and former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Michael Cohen will be sentenced on December 12th. He’ll likely be sentenced to four to five years in prison.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, a jury convicted Paul Manafort on eight of 18 charges, but the jury could not reach a verdict on the other counts. Sentencing experts expect him to receive a prison term of about 10 years. The Manafort charges stem from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but the case against Manafort focused on the work he did before he became President Trump’s campaign manager. Manafort was accused of hiding millions of dollars earned in Ukraine in overseas bank accounts and failing to pay taxes on the money

The question now is whether Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort will cooperate with Mueller’s investigation in exchange for lesser sentences. Or will President Trump pardon one or both men? To help answer these questions and more, we’re joined by investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler.

Cohen May Be Shopping a Cooperation Agreement; It’s Not Clear Anyone Is Buying
By emptywheel
August 22, 2018

In the wake of yesterday’s twin guilty verdicts, the punditocracy has asserted, based on an assumption that Michael Cohen knows everything Trump did, that his guilty plea poses a bigger problem for Trump than Paul Manafort’s guilty verdict right now.

I’m not convinced. Indeed, I have real questions about whether Cohen faces anything other than his own charges in the Russian conspiracy case.