Need to Know: In Wake of Cohen, Manafort Verdicts, Trump Continues Chaotic Business as Usual

Need to Know: In Wake of Cohen, Manafort Verdicts, Trump Continues Chaotic Business as Usual

by Zach Harris | NEWS |

The president was implicated in the payoff of adult film actress Stormy Daniels this week, but that hasn’t stopped him from tweeting and trashing cabinet members.

Photo via Gage Skidmore

The walls are closing in on Donald Trump, but the president refuses to flinch. On Tuesday, two separate federal courts returned guilty verdicts in charges against the president’s longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, and his 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort; the former explicitly implicating the president in the criminal payoff of two women who said that they had extramarital affairs with Trump.

But even while the world watched Cohen testify after pleading guilty as jurors returned 8 damning verdicts against Manafort on Tuesday, Trump refused to curb his unfathomable confidence, instead responding to reporters and posting on Twitter with his own accusations of a “rigged witch hunt,” claiming that Cohen somehow plead guilty to “campaign finance violations that are not a crime.”

In the days since Tuesday’s rattling court decisions, Trump has only intensified his rebukes of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into election meddling and Trump’s 2016 campaign, once again threatening to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions for staying out of the process, and commending Manafort for his refusal to “break” under prosecutorial pressure.

Perhaps most brazenly, Trump told reporters from Fox & Friends that even if he knew about the Cohen payoffs — an assertion he has previously denied — that it did not constitute a crime because the hush money came from his business, and not his political campaign.

"They didn't come out of the campaign and that's big," Trump said in an interview with Fox News. "It's not even a campaign violation."

Typically willing to defend the president’s every move, Republican legislators have been largely quiet over the past 48 hours, presumably hoping that the latest headlines tying Trump to convicted criminals won’t damage their prospects in November’s midterm elections. If Democrats are able to regain a majority in the House, Republican efforts on Capitol Hill could quickly become futile, and drawing any negative attention to Trump from his own party could tilt those scales further.

"Rather than answer a bunch of hypotheticals, I'll do what I did in the Clinton -- when Ken Starr issued his report. I read it, I'll make a decision," South Carolina's Sen. Lindsey Graham said.

Taking an even softer approach, Louisiana Senator John Kennedy refused to even acknowledge Trump’s alleged involvement in the sex scandal payoffs.

"You know, I'm sorry. I don't see any deeper meaning in this other than you have to pay your taxes and you can't lie on a loan application," Senator Kennedy told reporters.

And while Mueller has yet to present or even suggest that he is planning to charge Trump himself, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office is currently contemplating their own charges against Trump’s business organization. According to the New York Times, Empire State and Manhattan officials are looking into whether the payoffs and subsequent reimbursement of Cohen broke corporate finance laws. 

Still, Trump has not wavered in his traditional non-stop talking and tweeting. This morning, in rambling posts on his favorite social site, the president returned to exclaiming his hatred for Hillary Clinton and the news media. Despite the week’s turmoil, the song remains the same.


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.


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