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: 486434

Reported Deaths: 6575
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1009131586
Ramsey43165803
Dakota36375392
Anoka33335388
Washington22121258
Stearns18752201
St. Louis14822263
Scott13308107
Wright12538116
Olmsted1181788
Sherburne874172
Carver775640
Clay692387
Rice670791
Blue Earth596635
Kandiyohi579674
Crow Wing521282
Chisago499545
Otter Tail483270
Benton447790
Winona418549
Mower405731
Douglas393368
Nobles387247
Goodhue386269
Polk343763
McLeod340049
Beltrami338651
Morrison324747
Itasca313646
Lyon313644
Becker312542
Isanti306756
Steele301511
Carlton300149
Freeborn282623
Pine282016
Nicollet259241
Todd248330
Brown245537
Le Sueur235720
Mille Lacs227947
Cass220424
Waseca209317
Meeker207434
Martin189928
Wabasha18673
Roseau180317
Hubbard160740
Houston157414
Dodge15294
Renville150340
Redwood147027
Fillmore13768
Chippewa136735
Pennington136316
Cottonwood135020
Wadena131020
Faribault123417
Aitkin119033
Watonwan11758
Sibley117310
Rock115914
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101624
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9488
Jackson93610
Swift87918
Pope8075
Marshall78015
Lake74218
Stevens7418
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68516
Wilkin67411
Koochiching61911
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5092
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned44568
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3075
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 335218

Reported Deaths: 5443
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk51785551
Linn19463313
Scott17080210
Black Hawk14924292
Woodbury13778212
Johnson1312174
Dubuque12416194
Dallas1019092
Pottawattamie9828143
Story959345
Warren511674
Clinton500784
Cerro Gordo498882
Webster494487
Sioux479169
Marshall463072
Des Moines427161
Muscatine424191
Buena Vista412237
Wapello4025108
Jasper386266
Plymouth367478
Lee354252
Marion339869
Jones284654
Henry279637
Bremer268754
Carroll266349
Crawford252235
Boone242830
Benton240354
Washington239047
Mahaska215246
Jackson209738
Dickinson202440
Tama202365
Kossuth198055
Delaware185540
Clay183825
Winneshiek182827
Fayette178635
Page177819
Buchanan176929
Wright173831
Hamilton173742
Cedar171523
Hardin169439
Harrison167169
Clayton159854
Butler158831
Mills147920
Floyd147741
Poweshiek147730
Lyon145541
Cherokee145336
Allamakee142347
Madison141918
Iowa139423
Hancock137630
Grundy132030
Winnebago130231
Calhoun129311
Cass128751
Jefferson128334
Appanoose123147
Louisa122341
Mitchell120440
Chickasaw119615
Union118731
Sac118318
Shelby116433
Emmet115040
Humboldt113525
Franklin109019
Guthrie108928
Palo Alto100921
Howard99021
Montgomery96736
Clarke94720
Keokuk92029
Monroe89428
Adair81028
Ida81032
Pocahontas80919
Davis76323
Monona76327
Greene72910
Lucas71421
Osceola68215
Worth6667
Taylor64112
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Van Buren53718
Ringgold50520
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