Yesterday morning, it seemed reality TV king turned President Trump’s biggest grievances were the Fed incrementally raising rates and accusations of renminbi and euro rate manipulation; that was until two of his former attaché were found (or pleaded) guilty of fraud and other charges. America’s most (un)popular real-life drama reached a climax yesterday when, within minutes of each other, Manafort was found guilty and Cohen pleaded guilty of fraud, further tarnishing the Trump’s trustworthiness in what has been deemed the “worst day” and “worst hour” of his presidency.
First, Trump’s ex-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted of eight counts of (bank and tax) fraud. Though once part of Trump’s inner circle and key in his campaign for President, these convictions against Manafort are related to his lobbying and consulting work for Ukraine ex-President Yanukovych and not directly related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s core investigation into Russian collusion and meddling in the 2016 election. Yet many will see the victory helps authenticate what Trump continues to call a “witch hunt” and gives credence for continued investigations. Moreover, it’s far from the end for Manafort, who faces seven more charges in a criminal case next month in DC (that didn’t have the option to be held in Manafort’s home state) and the possibility of being retried on the 10 federal case charges that the Virginia jury failed to reach an agreement on.
Second, more pertinently, and just minutes after Manafort’s verdict, Trump’s once long-time attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen pleaded guilty at a New York court to eight charges including: violating campaign finance laws, tax fraud and bank fraud. The first of these, relating to the hush-money paid to alleged mistresses of Donald Trump, has been the focus of the media’s coverage. Yesterday, Cohen said that “at the direction” of Trump he made payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, the graphic actress and the Playboy model, for the rights of their scurrilous accusations. His appeal agreement still calls for a sentencing of between 46 and 63 months in prison.
Law Professor Lisa Kern Griffin of Duke University says this development “brings the president perilously close to being an unindicted co-conspirator engaged in criminal wrongdoing”, some Democrats are already calling for impeachment, and Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, went tweet-to-tweet with Trump asking, “If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?” For the verdict on this cliffhanger, we will have to wait for the inevitable next episode.