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GOP lawmakers try to distance Trump from Manafort and Cohen as Democrats pounce

Two courtroom decisions within minutes of each other, each with eight convictions, against President Donald ...

Posted: Aug 22, 2018 12:18 PM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 12:18 PM

Two courtroom decisions within minutes of each other, each with eight convictions, against President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and campaign chairman engulfed Capitol Hill on Tuesday, where Republicans downplayed the connection of both cases to the White House while Democrats seized on the President's potential role and raised the prospect that he could have broken the law, too.

The guilty plea from Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen and the guilty verdicts against Paul Manafort once again scrambled the narrative for the President and special counsel Robert Mueller, prompting dueling reactions from senators peppered with questions about the latest developments.

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"If Manafort and Cohen did things that (they) shouldn't have done, which it sounds like they did, I think they ought to be held responsible for it but I don't see any of this having anything to do with the President and Russia," Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told reporters. "My expectation is that Mr. Mueller knows the lay of the land. The fact that he interviewed Don McGahn for 30 hours with the President's approval strikes me as having nothing to hide when it comes to the Russia investigation. So I hope this ends up concluding sooner rather than later and doesn't continue to be an issue in another election."

Democrats argued the news had ramifications for the special counsel's ongoing Russia investigation.

"If, as Michael Cohen testified in his guilty plea, his felonies were committed at the direction of ‪@realDonaldTrump, then the POTUS would be part of a federal crime - the only thing limiting DOJ from prosecuting being an OLC ruling saying a sitting president cannot be indicted," Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter.

If Democrats win control of the House in November, Nadler is expected to take the gavel of the Judiciary Committee, the panel that would likely lead impeachment proceedings. Nadler's comments Tuesday are the closest he's come to raising the prospect of impeachment, as to date he has tamped down the impeachment calls from some of his Democratic colleagues.

In less than an hour Tuesday, Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes -- with a mistrial declared for the other 10 -- and then Cohen entered a plea deal and said that "in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office" he had kept information that would have been harmful to the candidate and the campaign from becoming public.

The shocking turn of events left members on Capitol Hill divided, with Republicans trying to distance the President from any legal fallout his allies were facing and Democrats arguing the latest news was deeply troubling -- and yet another reason why ongoing investigations into the Trump campaign were essential.

Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the conviction of Manafort on multiple charges showed "again that the President's campaign was populated by individuals with a history of unscrupulous and dishonest business dealings and concerning ties to overseas interests."

On Cohen, Schiff argued that "the factual basis of the plea, potentially implicating the President in illegal campaign finance violations, adds to the President's legal jeopardy."

For Democrats, the latest news left more questions. Would, for example, Trump move to pardon Manafort, or how would the latest twist influence the Senate's own investigation?

Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, said he hoped Trump would not pardon Manafort, adding that "would have Watergate written all over it."

Republicans said they wanted to learn more, and some of the President's defenders noted that the charges against Manafort and Cohen had nothing to do with Russian collusion.

"Thus far, there have yet to be any charges or convictions for colluding with the Russian government by any member of the Trump campaign in the 2016 election," Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said in a statement. "I hope Mr. Mueller can conclude his investigation sooner rather than later for the benefit of the nation."

Sen. Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee who's an outspoken critic of Trump at times, suggested the best course of action would be to "let the legal process play out."

Asked how serious it was for Trump, Corker said that "it's really hard to say. ... Let's let the legal process play out. I'll let you guys decide how serious it is."

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, learned of the Manafort news as she walked off the Senate floor.

"It seems to me the prosecution built a pretty strong case so I'm not really surprised at those convictions," Collins said. She declined to comment further until she learned more.

The anticipation on Capitol Hill had been building In the minutes before Cohen entered his plea. Sens. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican who's the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who's the ranking member of the committee, offered a rare joint statement before reporters Tuesday afternoon saying they had "re-engaged" with Cohen.

Burr said the committee hoped that Cohen's guilty plea would not prevent him from potentially speaking to the committee again, following reports earlier this month that he claimed Trump had advance knowledge of the June 2016 meeting between campaign officials and Russian lawyers at Trump Tower.

Democrats argued that Congress should race to protect Mueller from being fired by the President.

"With the Cohen and Manafort news today, it's more important than ever that Congress act immediately to protect the Mueller investigation," Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine tweeted.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement that the White House was looking "increasingly like a criminal enterprise."

"Paul Manafort today faces, in effect, a life sentence. Michael Cohen should also face serious punishment for his crimes. Both should now cooperate -- truthfully and fully," Blumenthal said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1033831790
Lake558431013
Allen41736693
St. Joseph37007565
Hamilton36617417
Elkhart29425461
Tippecanoe22938228
Vanderburgh22565400
Porter19369327
Johnson18486389
Hendricks17696317
Clark13233195
Madison13176344
Vigo12631253
LaPorte12429221
Monroe12226176
Delaware10970198
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Kosciusko9643121
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Bartholomew8174157
Warrick7864156
Floyd7815180
Grant7248179
Wayne7164201
Boone6979103
Morgan6768141
Dubois6224118
Marshall6214116
Cass6024110
Henry5903110
Dearborn589878
Noble581688
Jackson509476
Shelby502396
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Gibson445595
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Harrison441775
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Jay201032
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Brown104443
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Ohio57911
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1109697

Reported Deaths: 20213
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1289521469
Cuyahoga1158802216
Hamilton814201251
Montgomery525861049
Summit484551006
Lucas43384824
Butler39098606
Stark33355930
Lorain25689506
Warren24612305
Mahoning22388602
Lake21219389
Clermont20138253
Delaware18892136
Licking16671225
Fairfield16589204
Trumbull16560483
Medina15618273
Greene15292248
Clark14244306
Wood13296200
Portage13254216
Allen11919239
Richland11611211
Miami10857225
Wayne9153225
Columbiana9039230
Muskingum8909135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8654251
Marion8649139
Erie8058165
Ashtabula7171179
Hancock6999133
Ross6948163
Geauga6850151
Scioto6540106
Belmont6159174
Union585049
Lawrence5741102
Jefferson5683159
Huron5554122
Sandusky5444126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5321109
Athens524460
Auglaize502487
Mercer487785
Shelby477095
Knox4573112
Madison444566
Ashland435997
Putnam4336104
Defiance432399
Fulton432274
Crawford4046110
Brown402761
Logan387678
Preble3859105
Clinton379266
Ottawa373581
Highland360266
Williams348578
Champaign344959
Guernsey325254
Jackson318454
Perry297350
Morrow291940
Fayette285750
Hardin275765
Henry273867
Holmes2703101
Coshocton269360
Van Wert247264
Adams243156
Pike242835
Gallia240850
Wyandot234756
Hocking220663
Carroll197548
Paulding176642
Meigs148540
Monroe136345
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan110124
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
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