Cooper: Cohen basically called Trump a 'crook'

President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleads guilty, and Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts on the same day. CNN's Anderson Cooper breaks down what this means for the President.

Posted: Aug 24, 2018 4:43 AM
Updated: Aug 24, 2018 4:43 AM

In the wake of an absolutely stunning 60 minutes of revelations on Tuesday afternoon, you might have been tempted to wonder whether President Donald Trump was in real legal jeopardy.

After all, his one-time personal lawyer Michael Cohen testified as part of a plea agreement in New York City that then-candidate Trump had "directed" and "coordinated" his efforts to hide payments discussed in the run-up to the 2016 election to two women -- porn star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal -- in an effort to keep their allegations of extramarital affairs with Trump out of the press. (In Daniels' case, a $130,000 payment was made, which Trump then reimbursed Cohen for, according to his lawyer.)

That is a violation of campaign finance laws, one of the eight charges that Cohen pleaded guilty to on Tuesday. And so, if Cohen admitted he broke the law and testified that he did it at the direction of the President then, well, isn't Trump in deep trouble?

Probably not. And the reason is that special counsel Robert Mueller's office has apparently signaled to the President's legal team that they will abide by longstanding Justice Department regulations that stipulate that a sitting President can't be indicted. "All they get to do is write a report," Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash in May. "They can't indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us."

On Tuesday night, a source close to the White House told Fox News' John Roberts, "Remember, the President cannot be indicted."

To be clear: There is a debate in the legal community about the prohibition on indicting a sitting president, but it seems unlikely Mueller would push for an indictment as a direct result of his investigation.

The more likely threat to Trump -- and this is as true following the Cohen plea deal and Paul Manafort's conviction as it was a week ago -- is the possibility that the House takes up articles of impeachment against him.

Take a step back: This case has always moved on two related but not identical tracks. There is the legal end of things, which has led to a series of criminal charges out of the Mueller team and its most high-profile conviction in the form of Trump's former campaign chairman, Manafort, on Tuesday. Then there is the political track, which has to date taken a back seat to the legal jockeying but is the far more dangerous path for Trump.

At some point in the (relatively?) near future, Mueller and his team will release the findings of their probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, whether any collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign existed and whether Trump obstructed justice by getting in the way of the investigation.

Is it possible that Mueller will, contra Giuliani, push for Trump to be indicted? I mean, anything is possible. But what's much more likely is that Mueller -- in deference to established Justice Department protocols --will simply let the report speak for itself.

Assuming Mueller does that, the political track will be the only way in which Trump could be punished in any meaningful way. To date, national Democrats have been reluctant to talk too much about possible impeachment proceedings against Trump -- leaving that sort of talk to a small number of ultra-liberal members of the party.

It remains to be seen whether Tuesday's events change the minds of people like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. But at least one somewhat unlikely source believes that the Manafort conviction on eight counts of financial crimes and the Cohen plea agreement have put impeachment very much on the ballot in November.

"Today clarifies that November is a referendum on impeachment -- an up or down vote," Steve Bannon, Trump's one-time senior strategist told Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs on Tuesday night. "Every Trump supporter needs to get with the program."

That's a startling statement by Bannon, although he may not be wrong about it. If Democrats win back control of the House in the coming midterm election -- and they are favored to do so -- it's hard to imagine calls for impeachment from their party's base wouldn't grow louder after the events of Tuesday.

The wild card, of course, is what Mueller's report ultimately finds. If it fully exonerates Trump, a move toward impeachment would likely be cast as a pure political ploy by Democrats. If it doesn't clear Trump, however, then Democrats will likely seriously consider the idea of impeachment. The question at that point is whether any Republicans would join them.

Tuesday changed a lot of things in political Washington.

One thing it didn't change is that the real threat to Donald Trump's presidency in all of this isn't indictment. It's impeachment.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1380370

Reported Deaths: 21820
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1534461574
Cuyahoga1354332341
Hamilton984041326
Montgomery677001161
Summit566391051
Lucas51349869
Butler47858663
Stark42048983
Lorain31922539
Warren30328338
Mahoning27315643
Clermont25897297
Lake24746422
Delaware22501147
Licking20701246
Fairfield20658223
Greene20527275
Trumbull20127516
Medina20006290
Clark18086332
Richland16602236
Portage16305231
Wood15869209
Allen14257261
Miami13963261
Muskingum12858155
Wayne12126244
Columbiana11896242
Tuscarawas11103271
Marion10865150
Pickaway10580129
Scioto10477127
Erie9822171
Ross9566177
Lawrence8886125
Hancock8567143
Ashtabula8423187
Geauga8226156
Belmont8221188
Jefferson7635175
Huron7507131
Union740751
Washington7334126
Athens705965
Sandusky6925135
Darke6853137
Knox6762122
Seneca6496137
Ashland6035115
Auglaize593188
Shelby5796104
Brown572972
Mercer563690
Defiance5538101
Crawford5530117
Madison549371
Highland548082
Fulton539583
Clinton532081
Logan516987
Preble5058111
Putnam4876107
Guernsey480664
Williams466482
Perry459054
Champaign452264
Ottawa441384
Jackson432963
Pike397045
Morrow393851
Coshocton386669
Fayette381753
Adams366875
Hardin363970
Gallia352858
Holmes3297111
Henry328869
Van Wert318871
Hocking308070
Wyandot284558
Carroll265452
Paulding245143
Meigs220242
Monroe191949
Noble172942
Morgan169429
Harrison160041
Vinton140619
Unassigned05
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