In a scene you couldn’t script, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is found guilty on eight counts and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleads guilty to eight counts within minutes of each other. Trump is on Air Force One flying to a rally in West Virginia.
That’s from the Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey and it neatly sums up the kind of day Donald Trump has had. More importantly, it underscores just how surreal this presidency has become.
On Tuesday, former Trump fixer and attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to each of eight counts including bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations. On the latter, Cohen said he violated campaign laws “at the direction of a candidate”.
Worse still, Cohen said he acted “for the purposes of influencing the election”, adding that he paid $130,000 and was “later repaid by the candidate”.
Reports indicate that his plea deal did not include cooperation, although it’s still possible Cohen could speak to investigators going forward. In July, Cohen indicated he is not in fact prepared to go down with his former boss’s ship, telling George Stephanopoulos that when push comes to shove, “my wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will.”
Meanwhile, Paul Manafort was found guilty on all five tax fraud counts, one count of failing to file a financial document with the government and two counts of bank fraud. The jury failed to reach a verdict on the other 10 counts in the indictment.
The verdict came after almost four days of deliberations. It is the first major win for Robert Mueller in the special counsel’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Last week, Manafort’s legal team rested their case without mounting a defense. In short, attempts to deflect blame to former associate Rick Gates were not successful. Technically, Manafort faces up to eight decades in prison, but that of course will not be how he’s sentenced.
The bottom line, in case it isn’t clear enough, is the following from The Daily Beast’s Justin Miller:
Two of the men closest to Trump during the election are going to prison.
There is no “witch hunt” here, America.
â€¢ Campaign Chair Paul Manafort: Guilty on 8 counts
â€¢ Ex-Personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen: Pleaded guilty
â€¢ Ex-Nat'l Security Adviser Michael Flynn: Pleaded guilty
â€¢ Campaign adviser George Papadopoulos: Pleaded guilty
â€¢ Deputy Campaign Chair Rick Gates: Pleaded guilty
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 21, 2018