While Democrats have cried foul, and have even invoked the “I” word, President Trump says the hush money payments made to women by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, were nothing more than “simple transactions.”
This was Trump’s reaction to the initial court filings on Friday, December 7th which spelled some trouble for Trump.
When the news of the court filings broke, Democratic U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler told CNN that if the payments are proven to be felony campaign finance violations, that could be grounds for impeachment. “Well, they would be impeachable offenses. Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,” said Nadler, who will lead the Judiciary Committee when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January.
However, this was all said before a teary-eyed Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday, December 12, for a “veritable smorgasbord” of crimes that included the hush payments to the two women before the 2016 election. During a plea for mercy in Manhattan federal court, Cohen — who once said that he would “take a bullet for the president” but has since turned on his former boss, and has been cooperating with the Mueller investigation — said his “blind loyalty” to Trump had “led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”
The problem for Trump now lies in that Cohen has not only pled guilty to a crime, but has said under oath that it was with the full knowledge of, and at the behest of then-candidate Trump, who can now be considered an “un-indicted co-conspirator” in a federal crime.
Trump Denies Ordering Cohen to Break the Law
Trump did not respond to questions that were shouted to him during a White House event following Cohen’s sentencing. Since then, however, in his favorite form of communication, the President has tweeted that he never ordered Cohen to break the law.
“I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law. He was a lawyer, and he is supposed to know the law. It is called ‘advice of counsel,’ and a lawyer has great liability if a mistake is made,” Trump tweeted.
In the series of tweets, which seem to be setting up Trump’s defense, should he be indicted, Trump wrote, “That is why they get paid. Despite that many campaign finance lawyers have strongly stated that I did nothing wrong concerning campaign finance laws, if they even apply, because this was not campaign finance.”
“Cohen was guilty on many charges unrelated to me, but he plead to two campaign charges which were not criminal and of which he probably was not guilty even on a civil basis.”
“Those charges were just agreed to by him to embarrass the president and get a much-reduced prison sentence, which he did-including the fact that his family was temporarily let off the hook. As a lawyer, Michael has great liability to me!”
At the crux of the matter, Cohen pleaded guilty to paying porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal to stay silent about alleged affairs with Trump, then a candidate for president. According to prosecutors, the payments should have been disclosed as campaign expenditures.
Trump continues to deny that the affairs with Daniels and McDougal ever took place, and argues that the payments to them were not “campaign contributions.”
Legal experts — split along party lines as you might imagine — are divided as to if the Constitution provides that a sitting president can be indicted for a crime, or that if the campaign finance violations represented by the pay-offs rise to the level of criminal offenses.