BY: TANNER KENNEY
On Tuesday, August 21st, 2018, the former personal attorney to President Donald J. Trump and former Republican National Committee Deputy Finance Chairman Michael Cohen surrendered to the FBI and pleaded guilty to charges of bank and tax fraud as well as several campaign finance violations. Simultaneously, in a courtroom in Maryland, former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty by a jury of 12 peers on 5 counts of tax fraud, 2 counts of bank fraud, and 1 count of hiding foreign bank accounts.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller III and his team investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 elections had initially sought 18 charges against Manafort, but Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a mistrial on 10 of those counts. Furthermore, Cohen also accepted guilt for his role in several campaign finance violations related to the illicit payment of several women, preventing them from speaking to the press regarding their intimate relationships with Trump just prior to the 2016 presidential election.
In his plea agreement, Cohen explicitly states that he was directed by then-candidate Trump to make the payments to the women in order to influence the then-upcoming election, thereby involving President Trump directly in ongoing legal proceedings related directly to numerous ongoing investigations of political bodies on both the state and federal levels. Moreover, President Trump, himself, has publicly expressed his worries regarding his son Don Jr.’s involvement in Mueller’s probe whilst former Trump Campaign Advisor Roger Stone believes he is next-in-line for an indictment from the Special Counsel.
Rumors of Cohen’s betrayal of his former client have been circulating since as early as June of this year following President Trump’s refusal to pay for his former attorney’s legal fees, let alone offer any semblance of a pardon on the horizon. And, perhaps most interestingly, Cohen’s plea agreement does not include a deal to cooperate with federal officials representing the Southern District of New York in the case, nor does it indicate he is preparing to do the same with Special Counsel Mueller.
Outside of the testimony contained within the agreement, the timing of Cohen’s plea is alarming for the Trump Administration as the incomplete verdict in Manafort’s first legal proceedings will loom large over yet another trial in Virginia. In addition, the Special Counsel revealed that former Trump Campaign Advisor George Papadopoulos’ testimony was less fruitful than initially desired. The Office of the Special Counsel alleges that Papadopoulos continually lied to FBI agents, significantly hampering the probe and, therefore, justifies a 6-month prison sentence.
The question remains, however, whether or not Michael Cohen will cooperate with the Special Counsel and his investigation as it begins to target individuals directly involved with the Trump Campaign, including a delay in the sentencing of Gen. Michael Flynn as he continues his cooperation with Robert Mueller & Co.
Tanner Kenney is an energy and media professional with a background in journalism and received his M.S. in Global Affairs, Environment & Energy Policy from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Recently, Tanner has focused on the advocacy of sustainable development through renewable energy technologies, transportation efficiency, and inclusive public policy.
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