Lies, fraud and scandal leave Trump exposed
Can anything bring Trump down? The president’s lawyer has pleaded guilty to paying hush money to two women during the election campaign. He says Trump told him to do it. Is this the end?
A courtroom in Manhattan and a courtroom in Virginia. Late on Tuesday afternoon, America was treated to an astonishing split-screen moment involving two important people in the Trump empire.
In Virginia, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convicted of financial fraud. It was the first conviction in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation. He could spend the rest of his life in jail.
But this news was nothing compared to what had happened in New York just minutes earlier.
Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to violating finance laws during the presidential election campaign.
Cohen admitted he had arranged hush payments to two women who are suspected of having affairs with Trump. He did this “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.” And he said that “a candidate for federal office” (i.e. Trump) had directed him to do this.
The two women are adult film star Stormy Daniels, who was paid $130,000, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was paid $150,000.
“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” the president tweeted yesterday morning.
These are serious charges. Many experts believe that if Cohen’s account can be proved, it means Trump himself is guilty of federal crimes.
But most experts also agree that Trump is unlikely to face criminal charges while he is still president.
What is possible is that he could be fired by Congress under the U.S. Constitution’s provision for impeaching a president over “high crimes and misdemeanours”.
For that to happen, the Democrats would likely need to have control of both houses.
The chances of impeachment would increase if Mueller’s investigation was to conclude that Trump colluded with Russia to sway the election. Now Cohen's lawyer has said his client is keen to tell Mueller “all that he knows”.
Trump has weathered storms before. But if this does not bring him down, then perhaps only defeat at the ballot box will.
We have seen this all before, say sceptics. The Access Hollywood tape. The scandal over his tax returns. His firing of James Comey. His defence of the Charlottesville protesters. Trump appears to be made of Teflon. Only hardcore liberal news junkies really think impeachment is close. It is still miles away.
This time really might be different, reply others. On most of those other occasions, Trump may have offended and enraged many people but he was not breaking the law. Mueller has only been on the job for 15 months. He has already caught two of Trump’s closest associates. There is every reason to believe this is the start of something big.
- Will Trump ever be impeached?
- Do you consider Trump to be a criminal?
- Summarise this story in less than 100 words.
- Design a graphic illustrating the major players in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.
Some People Say...
“If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn’t they be a crime for Donald Trump?”Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has pleaded guilty to violating finance laws during the 2016 presidential election by handling hush money for Donald Trump’s alleged lovers. He said that Trump told him to pay the two women. Minutes later, Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was found guilty by a jury of a string of bank and tax fraud charges.
- What do we not know?
- Lots of things. We still do not know many details of Trump’s alleged affairs. There is also not yet official confirmation that Cohen will speak to Mueller, and where that would go if he did. We do not know to what extent Trump would co-operate with the investigation, which he has called a “witch hunt” many times.
- Financial fraud
- He hid millions of dollars in foreign accounts to evade taxes and lied to banks to obtain millions of dollars in loans. The charges date back to before his association with the Trump campaign.
- Rest of his life in jail
- Manafort is 69, and each of the conspiracy charges he was found guilty of carry a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison.
- Stormy Daniels
- Her real name is Stephanie Clifford.
- Impeaching a president
- No US president has ever been removed from office on the basis of impeachment. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were both later acquitted by the Senate, while an impeachment process against Richard Nixon was not completed as he resigned from office before the full House voted.
- Control of both houses
- They have the chance to win control of Congress in the midterm elections in November.
- In August last year, a far-right demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent.
- 15 months
- As a comparison, the Watergate investigation ran for more than two years.