When the history of the Trump presidency is written, more attention may be paid to the hour between 4pm and 5pm on August 21, 2018, than to any other moment during his tumultuous time in office.
CGTN’s Nathan King reports with the latest.
In two courtrooms hundreds of kilometers apart, his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, while at the same time a jury convicted Paul Manafort on exactly the same number of counts.
Manafort’s case largely involved tax evasion concerning his work in Ukraine and doesn’t touch Trump directly. Cohen’s guilty plea, however, goes to the heart of Trump’s election campaign, business dealings and potentially puts the president of the United States in legal jeopardy.
Cohen admitted in open court that he had arranged payments to two women, a porn actress and a Playboy model, both of whom claimed to have had extramarital affairs with Donald Trump. Then came the bombshell. Cohen said he did so “at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” That candidate was Trump.
Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis issued a statement saying, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”
While there is a legal debate about whether a sitting president can be charged with a crime, it is clear that one of his closest confidants has now declared, under oath in open court, that Trump was complicit in his crimes.
On his way to a political rally in the U.S. state of West Virginia, President Trump reacted to the developments concerning both Cohen and his former campaign chair Paul Manafort, telling reporters as he stepped off Air Force One, “I feel badly for both. I must tell you that Paul Manafort is a good man. He was with Ronald Reagan. He was with a lot of different people over the years and I feel very sad about that.”
For the rest of Tuesday night and well into Wednesday morning there was silence from Trump and the rest of the White House. Speculation swirled in Washington that Trump might move to use his presidential powers to pardon Manafort and Cohen in a bid to end the investigations. Cohen’s lawyer Davis then revealed that his client would not accept a pardon, telling the US radio network NPR, “I know that Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office.”
Davis also told US media that his client has information about possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election campaign. Michael Cohen, who once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump, now seems to be capable of pulling the trigger against his former boss.
The U.S. president took to his favorite medium Twitter later Wednesday morning, tweeting sarcastically, “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”
Meanwhile, the White House remained silent on the bombshell legal developments. Republican allies of the president in the U.S. Congress were also mute.
What is clear is that the investigations of the U.S. president will continue. The information that led to the conviction of Paul Manafort and the guilty pleas from Michael Cohen stemmed from the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election campaign. Mueller is also looking into possible obstruction of justice by the president.
Trump’s allies have been waging a public campaign against Mueller trying to discredit his investigation and saying that the probe is a “witch hunt” with no evidence.
One hour on Tuesday blew those arguments away, and the U.S. president is in political and potentially legal trouble. Talk of impeachment is growing, and a sense of crisis is engulfing the U.S. capital.
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