It happened around 3 pm or so Texas time Tuesday. First came word that Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty to violations of federal campaign laws. Most ominously for the president, he admitted to making payments to two women at the direction of then-candidate Trump, in an attempt to make sure the women kept quiet about affairs they said they had with Trump.
A few minutes later, Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convicted of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. A mistrial was declared on 10 other counts against Manafort.
But what does this all add up to for the president?
Stephen Vladeck is professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin. He says despite the fact that Manafort worked so closely with Trump during the campaign, his doesn’t pose any direct risk to the president, but “obviously, it’s not a good look.”
More significant is Michael Cohen’s agreement to plead guilty to misuse of campaign funds.
What the two cases have in common is the potential that Cohen or Manafort could provide evidence to Robert Mueller’s investigators, in exchange for lenient treatment in other matters.
“Michael Cohen plead guilty to eight different charges,” Vladeck says “the last two of which were specifically about violations of campaign finance law that he admitted, on the record in open court – he engaged in at the behest…of the president. That’s pretty darn problematic for the president.
Vladeck says the admission also shines a spotlight on Congress, which might be under pressure to take action related to the president’s role in violations of the law.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.