In a shocking pair of events, CNN.com has reported that Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen has surrendered to the FBI over financial improprieties brought about from his handling of the Stormy Daniels affair and Paul Manafort, Trump's embattled campaign chairman, has been found guilty on five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and two counts of bank fraud.
These events could have tremendous impact on the already struggling Trump administration. Facing increasing pressure from the Mueller investigation over the issue of Russian collusion during his presidential campaign, the legal troubles around both men so intimately connected with his cabinet could mean severe trouble for President Trump, especially given the information they may offer up in exchange for plea deals.
Trump's attorney has been under fire for a few different things, mostly for a bank fraud charge brought about from his dealings with the NYC taxi industry and the large payout of hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels, whom Trump had an affair with.
The FBI raided Michael Cohen's office in April, which Trump had decried on Twitter. The danger to Trump centers around how Stormy Daniels was paid off, especially if moneys used "at the discretion of the candidate" came as part of the campaign financing rather than from Trump's personal accounts. If it did come as part of official campaign moneys then it's a major finance violation. Vox put together a panel of legal experts and one of them, Lisa Kern Griffin, law professor of Duke University, said:
The president’s personal attorney has given sworn testimony in open court that he committed campaign finance violations in coordination with and at the direction of the president. Although the president is not named in the charges, he is all but an unindicted co-conspirator.
This turn in the president’s fortunes is dramatic and damaging, and it should have political repercussions even if it does not have immediate legal ones. All of this is occurring in the Southern District of New York and involves wrongdoing in addition to the campaign activities that are the focus of the special counsel’s investigation.
Cohen, informally known as Trump's "fix-it" man and who also has conservative commentator Sean Hannity as a client, has plead guilty to:
- Five counts of tax evasion
- One count of making false statements to a financial institution
- One count of willfully causing an unlawful corporate contribution
- One count of making an excessive campaign contribution at request of a candidate or campaign
These crimes can lead to jail sentences.
Earlier this afternoon, President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been found guilty of the following charges:
- Count 1: Tax Fraud — Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2010 (3 year maximum sentence)
- Count 2: Tax Fraud — Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2011 (3 year max sentence)
- Count 3: Tax Fraud - Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2012 (3 year maximum sentence)
- Count 4: Tax Fraud — Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2013 (3 year maximum sentence)
- Count 5: Tax Fraud - Subscribing to false US individual income tax returns in 2014 (3 year maximum sentence)
- Count 12: Hiding Foreign Bank Accounts — Failure to File Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts in 2012 (5 year maximum sentence)
- Count 25: Bank Fraud — $3.4 million Citizens Bank loan (30 year maximum sentence)
- Count 27: Bank Fraud — $1 million Bank of California loan (30 year maximum sentence)
Manafort is a career lobbyist and campaign advisor for the Republican party, and had previously worked as an advisor for the administration of Viktor Yanukovych, a Pro-Putin former President of the Ukraine. He has a long history of advocating for governments and dictators with less than stellar human rights records, as well as for offshore tax shelters for his money. His most famous method of getting his money out of overseas accounts has been in extravagant fashion purchases, which have been criticized by no less of an icon than Vogue's former editor at large André Leon Talley.
We will have more on each story as it develops.