The Cohen and Manafort Convictions–Explained

September 10, 2018


On Aug. 21, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort–two major associates of President Donald Trump–received convictions of extensive federal crimes, which suggest serious implications for both themselves and the president.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was found guilty of crimes which ultimately had nothing to do with Russian meddling in the 2016 election, or the possible collusion involving the president. His five tax fraud charges, two bank fraud charges and singular charge of hiding foreign bank accounts all stemmed from his work for pro-Russian politics in Ukraine, years before the Trump campaign, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Manafort faced 18 charges before jurors read the final verdict. Eleven out of 12 jurors wanted the full indictment but one juror held out, and essentially saved Manafort from 10 more counts held against him, according to Vox. Manafort makes the fourth Trump aide to be convicted by the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller’s investigation.

According to Vox, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes, including tax evasion, making false statements to a bank, and stopping a monthslong investigation into his business and work dealings. Cohen also admitted that he made payments to two women who alleged they had sexual encounters with Trump, including Stephanie Clifford, now known as Stormy Daniels. These statements implicate Trump of serious crimes.

The payments violated both restrictions on campaign contributions and a ban on corporate contributions, according to the Wall Street Journal. On a phone interview with “Fox & Friends,” Trump denied any knowledge, and claimed he became aware of the payments only after Cohen made them.  

The plea deal Cohen struck with prosecutors does not require his cooperation for further investigations, but does leave room for him to speak with Mueller about his legal affairs with the president. Cohen also does not have immunity from future convictions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in the weeks before Michael Cohen’s guilty plea to eight felony charges, President Donald Trump started to distance himself from his longtime lawyer. The president stopped paying legal fees, making it clear among the surmounting pressure from building evidence that Cohen was on his own.

The counsel had been examining Cohen’s finances since at least October 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal. The case mainly built off of documents seized in the April. 9 raids on Cohen’s home, hotel and office. In these raids, the prosecution zeroed in on Cohen’s relationship with American Media Inc., a publishing company responsible for printing The National Enquirer, and more evidence of campaign violations.

American Media Inc. executives brokered deals on behalf of Trump which ultimately led to the basis of Cohen’s guilty plea, including the payments to Daniels. According to the New York Times, one recording seized illustrated Cohen and Trump discussing a deal to buy the rights to a story involving another woman alleging a sexual encounter with the president. David Pecker, chairman of American Media Inc. and personal friend of the president, practiced a method called “catch and kill” during the 2016 election in which he prevented negative stories on Trump from getting published.

Both Cohen and Manfort are facing years of prison time on account of their crimes. Their pleas free up resources for further investigations for both the Justice Department and the FBI to pursue.

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