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Blumenthal: 'We're in a Watergate moment'

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) says the US is in a Watergate moment where bipartisanship is necessary to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Posted: Aug 22, 2018 5:24 PM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 5:26 PM

It is hard to imagine a historical parallel to the one-two blows that landed flush on the jaw of President Donald Trump Tuesday afternoon, with the nearly simultaneous announcements of Paul Manafort's convictions and Michael Cohen's guilty pleas.

Taken together, the developments represent a thunderous rebuttal by the criminal justice system on behalf of the rule of law and against the President's attempts to demonize the Department of Justice and FBI.

Both proceedings pose serious legal trouble for the President, but the Cohen plea is the graver and more immediate risk. It put a target directly on the President's back.

Cohen was charged with a series of crimes, including some of the same sort of bank fraud that ensnared Manafort. But it will be counts seven and eight that keep Trump and his lawyers up for many nights.

The conduct laid out in those counts deals directly with Trump's efforts to stop Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal from speaking about their alleged affairs with him. Indeed, Trump's involvement is partly spelled out in the indictment itself, even though the President was not named, following Justice Department policy.

If, as Cohen says, Trump not only knew about but directed Cohen's conduct, it means that the President would have been nothing less than a co-conspirator in a federal crime. And this crime, far from concerning long past financial misdeeds, would be a felony that then-candidate Trump committed precisely in order to secure election. It is hard to think of a more prototypical high crime or misdemeanor.

More importantly, the Cohen guilty plea anticipates a process, which already has begun, in which Cohen tells what he knows about those crimes, and probably others, to investigators working for the special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as to prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, where the case is pending.

Typically a criminal defendant would already have provided full information to the government before entering a plea. That didn't happen here. It appears as if the Southern District was dissatisfied with the progress of talks and ready to bring charges last week, prompting Cohen to move quickly into an open-book posture.

SDNY, for its part, is able to eliminate any concern about bringing charges too close to an election. And given the likely credibility and trust between SDNY and Cohen's excellent lawyer, Guy Petrillo, a former Criminal Division chief in that office, the parties probably felt sufficiently comfortable with entering the plea now and continuing the cooperation.

The eventual sentence Cohen gets for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty today -- which without cooperation looks to be in the six to eight year range, plenty long for the father of school-age children -- will depend on the information he is able to provide.

And, of course, since the charges are pending in New York, and not with the Mueller probe, Trump is essentially powerless to try to fire his way out of the mess. No matter what action he takes against Mueller, the case against Cohen remains.

He could pardon Cohen, a move probably made much more politically difficult by the conviction of Manafort; it seems quite a stretch to think that he would pardon both. But even a pardon of Cohen will likely not keep Cohen's information about Trump's involvement from coming to light, once he provides it to the federal prosecutors.

That is because he can be immunized by state authorities if they bring charges against him (i.e. they could promise not to prosecute him), and without the possibility of criminal liability, he would lose Fifth Amendment protections and could be compelled to testify. And any lies he might tell in that testimony -- i.e any material variations from the account he provides to the SDNY -- would expose him to perjury.

Deputy US Attorney Robert Khuzami ended his remarks announcing Cohen pleas with an unusual paean to the rule of law and the notion that the criminal justice system stands at the ready to prosecute wrongdoers without fear of favor.

The immediate subject of the remarks was Cohen, but it was a barely concealed reference to the President of the United States, and his offensive campaign to put himself above the law and demonize the criminal justice system. History may mark today as the day that campaign began to crumble.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 118322

Reported Deaths: 3591
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21502767
Lake10688323
Elkhart6707111
St. Joseph6619113
Allen6330205
Hamilton4938109
Vanderburgh378131
Hendricks2766124
Monroe265536
Tippecanoe256613
Johnson2352124
Clark225957
Porter219947
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Floyd139664
Warrick138242
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Bartholomew118457
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Henry81226
Jackson7739
Wayne77014
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Dearborn67528
LaGrange64011
Clinton62314
Harrison59224
Putnam58411
Gibson5355
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Lawrence51629
Montgomery51121
DeKalb48811
White48714
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Clay3085
Ripley3078
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Carroll27813
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Starke2717
Washington2701
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Spencer2633
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Fulton2442
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Jay1920
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Owen1711
Martin1680
Pike1641
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Blackford1213
Pulaski1141
Crawford1100
Parke1072
Brown1043
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 151802

Reported Deaths: 4746
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin27119607
Cuyahoga17554656
Hamilton13237315
Montgomery7938164
Lucas7343364
Butler6085111
Summit5366252
Warren311549
Marion311147
Mahoning3095281
Stark2913175
Pickaway267944
Lorain233386
Delaware230621
Fairfield213253
Licking194963
Columbiana194080
Wood192172
Trumbull1916132
Clark183940
Clermont174423
Lake164851
Greene149034
Medina147539
Miami146351
Allen146269
Portage116866
Mercer113218
Erie95947
Tuscarawas94120
Wayne94068
Richland92219
Ross89624
Madison84312
Darke80643
Geauga72649
Athens7242
Belmont72427
Hancock72010
Lawrence67122
Ashtabula66048
Shelby66010
Putnam61923
Auglaize6119
Sandusky58020
Huron5557
Union5512
Scioto5167
Seneca48814
Ottawa47130
Preble44515
Muskingum4383
Holmes3959
Jefferson3384
Henry33414
Defiance33012
Champaign3133
Logan3133
Clinton30213
Perry3009
Brown2922
Knox28815
Washington26223
Jackson2616
Morrow2612
Fulton2591
Hardin25713
Crawford2476
Ashland2464
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Fayette2336
Highland2303
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Pike2020
Gallia19613
Meigs17610
Guernsey1738
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Adams1364
Van Wert1243
Monroe11018
Paulding1100
Harrison643
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Vinton473
Noble340
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