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 3:14 AM
Updated: Aug 24, 2018 3:43 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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 770246

Reported Deaths: 8661
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1537491923
Ramsey63444980
Dakota57071526
Anoka54052520
Washington33690331
Stearns28419253
St. Louis23735361
Scott21652160
Wright21388171
Olmsted18144120
Sherburne15515115
Carver1366556
Clay1025399
Rice9985131
Blue Earth966659
Crow Wing9518109
Chisago837263
Kandiyohi835197
Otter Tail8061105
Benton7477111
Beltrami658079
Mower645541
Douglas629190
Goodhue619985
Itasca618885
Winona611854
McLeod595770
Steele585825
Isanti573074
Morrison557767
Becker534862
Polk512879
Freeborn487642
Nobles481652
Lyon456356
Carlton446866
Nicollet434454
Pine428532
Cass425745
Mille Lacs416967
Brown411547
Todd400036
Le Sueur386332
Meeker356854
Waseca327331
Martin326336
Wabasha29538
Hubbard292744
Dodge273510
Roseau265227
Fillmore243812
Redwood240443
Wadena238429
Houston231117
Renville228549
Faribault220630
Pennington217227
Sibley211612
Cottonwood197128
Kanabec192230
Chippewa190340
Aitkin184043
Watonwan171112
Pope16148
Yellow Medicine157220
Rock155319
Jackson147315
Koochiching138619
Clearwater136618
Murray135011
Swift134619
Marshall134520
Pipestone133427
Stevens124911
Lake109521
Wilkin102814
Lac qui Parle98524
Mahnomen90312
Norman8789
Big Stone7974
Grant7869
Lincoln7845
Kittson61122
Red Lake5899
Unassigned538124
Traverse5165
Lake of the Woods4764
Cook2460

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 474151

Reported Deaths: 6785
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk74657729
Linn29194394
Scott24733274
Black Hawk20335358
Woodbury19207244
Johnson17988100
Dubuque15834229
Pottawattamie14276200
Dallas14109108
Story1288551
Warren774296
Cerro Gordo6951110
Webster6950111
Clinton6929101
Des Moines667594
Marshall641885
Muscatine6352113
Wapello5936137
Jasper578279
Lee565689
Sioux565676
Marion508191
Buena Vista491746
Plymouth463487
Henry389847
Jones370861
Washington366856
Benton359257
Bremer357168
Boone350937
Carroll346353
Crawford339347
Mahaska322856
Dickinson301052
Clay279133
Buchanan279039
Jackson273546
Kossuth271873
Hardin270249
Tama264976
Fayette260649
Delaware258546
Cedar249526
Page249328
Wright243645
Hamilton233954
Winneshiek233338
Floyd221845
Harrison217777
Madison216925
Clayton214558
Poweshiek211741
Iowa208029
Butler206638
Cass201557
Jefferson201040
Mills199929
Allamakee194753
Cherokee193844
Lyon192941
Hancock187639
Winnebago186633
Calhoun186116
Appanoose180850
Shelby178439
Louisa171052
Grundy168537
Humboldt167727
Emmet167146
Franklin164628
Mitchell164043
Union162637
Chickasaw159318
Sac157924
Guthrie155434
Montgomery142342
Palo Alto142032
Clarke141328
Keokuk139635
Monroe134335
Howard128222
Ida118641
Greene116315
Davis115225
Lucas113724
Pocahontas111423
Monona108738
Worth10818
Adair105335
Osceola94017
Fremont86111
Van Buren84221
Decatur82612
Taylor79713
Wayne74824
Ringgold67727
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Adams5095
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