BREAKING NEWS : Crews pulling car out of Reservoir Park Full Story

GOP leaders mostly silent on Cohen, Manafort

CNN analysts John Avlon and Mark Preston discuss why congressional GOP leaders have mostly remained silent following the convictions of former Trump associates Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.

Posted: Aug 23, 2018 7:53 AM
Updated: Aug 23, 2018 8:09 AM

President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended hush money payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence two women who claimed affairs with him, saying the payments did not violate campaign finance laws because they were not funded by his campaign.

His attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony campaign finance violations surrounding the payments: making an excessive campaign contribution and causing a corporation to make an unlawful contribution -- and said he knowingly violated the law at Trump's direction. Trump claimed on Wednesday he only knew of the payments to the women "later on," though he did not specify when.

"They weren't taken out of campaign finance, that's the big thing. That's a much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn't come out of the campaign, they came from me," Trump said in an interview Wednesday with Fox News, referring to reimbursements his company the Trump Organization made to Cohen.

"They didn't come out of the campaign and that's big," Trump said. "It's not even a campaign violation."

Trump for the second time on Wednesday argued a campaign violation by President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign was far more serious, even though that violation involved missed reporting deadlines and involved a civil fine -- not felonies as in Cohen's case.

Larry Noble, the former counsel of the Federal Election Commission who is now senior director at the Campaign Legal Center, said Cohen's violation rose to the level of a criminal campaign finance violation because Cohen violated the law knowingly and willfully.

"What he admitted to is a crime. It's a violation of a law and he pled to a criminal violation of that law," he told CNN.

Trump awoke Wednesday facing the most legally precarious moment of his presidency as his allies began to formulate a strategy to bolster his weakened standing.

On Twitter, earlier in the day, Trump began attacking the special counsel's investigation and Cohen -- part of a plan among his allies to discredit his former attorney as a liar and a non-credible witness in the aftermath of his bombshell claim that Trump directed him to make illegal payments to women in order to maintain their silence about alleged sexual affairs.

Trump began that effort on Wednesday morning, attacking Cohen while signaling his support for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted on eight counts of financial crimes Tuesday afternoon. The question of whether Trump will extend a presidential pardon for Manafort looms over that case; the White House has not ruled out that possibility.

"I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family," the President tweeted. "'Justice' took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to 'break' - make up stories in order to get a 'deal.' Such respect for a brave man!"

At the start of the day, Trump appeared ready to make light of his grave legal situation.

"If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen!" he wrote on Twitter, a message that belied a dour mood and weeks-long resentment at the betrayal by his onetime fixer.

While the President was aware for weeks of the possible damage Cohen could do in his dealings with federal prosecutors, Trump did not know until Tuesday afternoon that he would be so explicitly implicated in the campaign finance charges.

Going after Cohen

Predictably, Trump's mood was grim as he traveled to and from West Virginia for a political rally on Tuesday evening. He consulted with his legal team on a response, including lead attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is overseas. The President flew with a large entourage aboard Air Force One, including two lawmakers and several aides. All watched the news happen in real time on Fox News.

One talking point already making the rounds among Trump backers: if Cohen is an admitted felon — on the campaign finance charges along with a litany of other financial crimes — why should he be trusted in his claims about the President?

"I think Michael Cohen is someone who, like Paul Manafort, had an elaborate scheme to not pay their taxes and committed a lot of financial crimes," said Matt Schlapp, a Trump ally and head of the American Conservative Union, on CNN's "New Day."

"In Cohen's case, because they had him over a barrel, because they had all these crimes that they could prosecute him for, they got him to sign a plea that was not negotiated, it was take it or leave it, and he signed it to save his own hide and get a reduced sentence," Schlapp said. "It happens in America all the time."

Cohen's attorney Lanny Davis -- who appeared on several morning news programs Wednesday -- dismissed the attacks on his client as a diversion tactic.

"When they are caught in a lie, they attack. They divert attention. They lie some more," he said on CNN.

Focus on 'collusion'

Trump and the White House will continue to argue that Russian collusion was not a part of Tuesday's legal meltdown, allies said. A set of talking points distributed by Republican leadership on Wednesday morning instructed pundits to remind interviewers "there is still no evidence of collusion" and the legal developments have "nothing to do with collusion with Russia."

Trump sought to drive home that point repeatedly on Tuesday.

"Where is the collusion? You know they're still looking for collusion," he asked during the rally in West Virginia. "Where is the collusion? Find us some collusion. We want to find the collusion."

It was his only mention of the issue during a rally that focused on trade, immigration and his economic accomplishments.

A source familiar with internal White House discussions said staffers were "stunned" and "rattled" by the day's bombshell developments. The new legal troubles will drive Trump to work harder to maintain control of the House and Senate in November, one Trump ally says, noting the impeachment implications of losing control of Congress.

On Monday, White House political advisers previewed a heavy campaign schedule for the fall, including up to 40 days of travel before November.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 725353

Reported Deaths: 13373
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion990831737
Lake53265963
Allen40302675
Hamilton35392408
St. Joseph35350550
Elkhart28304438
Tippecanoe22315217
Vanderburgh22252396
Porter18596306
Johnson17856376
Hendricks17121313
Clark12908191
Madison12549339
Vigo12400244
Monroe11827168
LaPorte11736210
Delaware10595185
Howard9837215
Kosciusko9358117
Hancock8225140
Bartholomew8038155
Warrick7761155
Floyd7636177
Wayne7007199
Grant7003174
Boone6660101
Morgan6543139
Dubois6143117
Marshall5973111
Dearborn577977
Cass5777105
Henry5675102
Noble556583
Jackson500172
Shelby488596
Lawrence4482120
Gibson434191
Harrison433071
Clinton426653
DeKalb424184
Montgomery423188
Whitley393739
Huntington386980
Steuben381857
Miami379766
Knox371190
Jasper362147
Putnam358260
Wabash352578
Adams340554
Ripley338670
Jefferson328881
White312554
Daviess295499
Wells290481
Decatur283392
Fayette278462
Greene276285
Posey270733
Scott264553
LaGrange264270
Clay258645
Randolph239781
Washington239332
Spencer230831
Jennings229048
Starke213852
Fountain211846
Sullivan210942
Owen196356
Fulton194240
Jay190930
Carroll187820
Perry182537
Orange182154
Rush172725
Vermillion167843
Franklin167235
Tipton161945
Parke145616
Blackford134332
Pike132834
Pulaski116045
Newton107034
Brown101441
Crawford99114
Benton98114
Martin87515
Warren80915
Switzerland7828
Union70610
Ohio56211
Unassigned0413

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1078734

Reported Deaths: 19344
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1253471392
Cuyahoga1113202107
Hamilton797471200
Montgomery512091012
Summit46916933
Lucas41890782
Butler38250580
Stark32150907
Lorain24874480
Warren24236297
Mahoning21439586
Lake20548368
Clermont19719238
Delaware18478131
Licking16384210
Fairfield16116199
Trumbull15974466
Medina15213262
Greene15013244
Clark13942297
Wood13038188
Portage12792201
Allen11590231
Richland11300198
Miami10656215
Muskingum8787132
Wayne8760210
Columbiana8743229
Pickaway8540121
Marion8502135
Tuscarawas8461243
Erie7840154
Hancock6884126
Ross6830152
Ashtabula6765169
Geauga6664148
Scioto6393101
Belmont5837167
Union569647
Lawrence5542102
Jefferson5487151
Huron5419119
Darke5342122
Sandusky5322120
Seneca5258121
Athens518158
Washington5138109
Auglaize487884
Mercer479785
Shelby467693
Knox4477110
Madison435061
Putnam4263100
Ashland420989
Fulton420469
Defiance417797
Crawford3960106
Brown392457
Logan380976
Preble378498
Clinton369961
Ottawa366179
Highland353161
Williams337275
Champaign329658
Guernsey315353
Jackson311851
Perry294550
Morrow283739
Fayette281049
Hardin270164
Henry267966
Coshocton263958
Holmes2591101
Van Wert242663
Pike237333
Adams236552
Gallia235048
Wyandot230654
Hocking214862
Carroll191047
Paulding171740
Meigs144339
Noble133437
Monroe131242
Morgan108323
Harrison107437
Vinton82115
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 43°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 41°
Huntington
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 42°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 43°
Van Wert
Partly Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 42°
Shower and thunderstorm chances increase Thursday afternoon.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events