A former attorney for Donald Trump has pleaded guilty and another Trump associate are both guilty of several felonies.
A jury in Virginia convicted Trump associate Paul Manafort in 8 of 18 felony counts that the Mueller investigation brought against him, but the judge declared a mistrial on the remaining counts. The convictions center on tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to file a report. None of the crimes are related to Russian interference in the 2016 election, which was the reason Mueller’s special counsel was formed.
Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax fraud, two campaign finance violations and one count of making false statements to a financial institution. The campaign finance violations related to payments allegedly made to two women during the 2016 presidential election. The first, willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution, relates to a payment made to Stormy Daniels in exchange for her silence. Prosecutors said the payment represents an in-kind contribution to a campaign. The second campaign charge, making an excessive campaign contribution, said the payment exceeded campaign contribution limits.
Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal counsel, has said that the president did not know of the payment. Cohen’s plea agreement states that he made the payments at the direction of a candidate, but does not name that candidate. That leaves the payment issue a he-said, he-said thing.
Manafort’s convictions don’t link in any way to the Trump campaign, but Cohen’s could create complications for the administration. Cohen’s sentencing is set for December 12 and the intervening months give prosecutors time to offer leniency in-trade for direct allegations against the president. Having already heard the only recordings of conversations about those payments, it’s unlikely that Cohen’s mess will spill over on to Trump other than its use in political opposition ads against the president and Republicans.
Upon his arrival in West Virginia, President Trump called Manafort’s conviction “very sad” and noted that it had nothing to do with Russian collusion. The president made no mention of Cohen’s plea.
The president will host a Make America Great Again rally Tuesday evening in Charleston, West Virginia.