(CNN) – Paul Manafort Found Guilty On Eight Counts
President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes, a major victory for special counsel Robert Mueller.
But jurors were unable to reach a verdict on 10 charges, and Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on those counts.
Manafort was found guilty of five tax fraud charges, one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud. He faces a maximum of 80 years in prison.
The news came at the same time Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was in a New York federal court to plead guilty to multiple counts of campaign finance violations, tax fraud and bank fraud.
Landing in Charleston, West Virginia, Trump said that the charges Manafort was convicted of on Tuesday have “nothing to do with Russian collusion” and criticized Mueller’s investigation for arriving at this point.
Manafort was charged with 18 counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and hiding foreign bank accounts in the first case Mueller brought to trial as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Ellis spoke directly to Manafort at podium to tell him he has been found guilty of several charges. He did not smile. His attorney Kevin Downing stood behind him.
Manafort’s wife Kathleen expressed no emotion and stared ahead. She had her hands clasped on her lap and made no comment upon leaving the court.
“Mr. Manafort is disappointed of not getting acquittals all the way through or a complete hung jury on all counts,” Downing told reporters. “However, he would like to thank Judge Ellis for granting him a fair trial, thank the jury for their very long and hard-fought deliberations. He is evaluating all of his options at this point. Thank you everyone.”
Michal Cohen Implicates Trump In Hush Money Scheme
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court Tuesday to eight criminal counts and implicated Trump himself in a remarkable courtroom moment.
Cohen admitted that “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” he kept information that would have harmed Trump from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle.
The charges against Cohen, an attorney for Trump until earlier this year and a member of his inner circle throughout his presidential campaign, bring a climactic end to a months-long investigation by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. And they expose, through the criminal information filed against Cohen in court, that he acted with Trump and his allies, including David Pecker, the CEO of the National Enquirer’s publisher, American Media Inc., to suppress potentially damaging claims against the now-President.
The dramatic conclusion to the investigation into Cohen launches a fresh round of questions about Trump’s actions. Though Trump himself isn’t named, the court filing refers to an Individual-1, who by January 2017 had become president of the United States.
The counts against Cohen included tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations tied to his work for Trump, including payments Cohen made or helped orchestrate that were designed to silence women who claimed affairs with the then-candidate.
Though not named in the plea deal filed in court, the women whom Cohen helped silence were two who have since gone public with their claims of sexual encounters or affairs with Trump: a porn star named Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, and a former Playboy model named Karen McDougal. Trump has denied the claims.
In the case of Clifford, Cohen arranged a nondisclosure agreement for which he paid her $130,000, and for that Cohen was charged with making an excessive campaign contribution, since the payment was made in service of the campaign and exceeded the federal limit.
For McDougal, Cohen and the CEO of a media company “worked together to keep an individual from publicly disclosing” information that would have been harmful to a candidate, saying the individual received $150,000. In the summer of 2016, American Media Inc. paid McDougal $150,000 for a contract that effectively silenced her claims of an affair with Trump.
“In or about August 2015, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Corporation-1 (“Chairman-1″), in coordination with MICHAEL COHEN, the defendant, and one or more members of the campaign, offered to help deal with negative stories about Individual-l’s relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided,” the criminal information says. “Chairman-1 agreed to keep COHEN apprised of any such negative stories.”
Though the corporation and its chairman are not named, court filings describe the corporation as “a media company that owns, among other things, a popular tabloid magazine.”
Cohen faces up to 65 years in prison.
Trump Lashes Out At Cohen, Mueller Probe
President Donald Trump awoke Wednesday facing the most legally precarious moment of his presidency and began attacking the special counsel’s investigation, and his former attorney Michael Cohen.
Trump and his allies will work to discredit Cohen, his former attorney, as a liar and a non-credible witness in the aftermath of his bombshell claim that Trump directed him to make illegal payments to women in order to maintain their silence about alleged sexual affairs, White House advisers say.
Trump began that effort on Wednesday morning, attacking Cohen while signaling his support for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted on eight counts of financial crimes Tuesday afternoon.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” the President tweeted. “‘Justice’ took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ – make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”
Earlier, Trump appeared to make light of his grave legal situation.
“If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!” he wrote on Twitter, a message that belied a dour mood and weeks-long resentment at the betrayal by his onetime fixer.
While the President was aware for weeks of the possible damage Cohen could do in his dealings with federal prosecutors, Trump did not know until Tuesday afternoon that he would be so explicitly implicated in the campaign finance charges.
Going after Cohen
Predictably, Trump’s mood was grim as he traveled to and from West Virginia for a political rally on Tuesday evening. He consulted with his legal team on a response, including lead attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is overseas. The President flew with a large entourage aboard Air Force One, including two lawmakers and several aides. All watched the news happen in real time on Fox News.
One talking point already making the rounds among Trump backers: if Cohen is an admitted felon — on the campaign finance charges along with a litany of other financial crimes — why should he be trusted in his claims about the President?
“I think Michael Cohen is someone who, like Paul Manafort, had an elaborate scheme to not pay their taxes and committed a lot of financial crimes,” said Matt Schlapp, a Trump ally and head of the American Conservative Union, on CNN’s “New Day.”
“In Cohen’s case, because they had him over a barrel, because they had all these crimes that they could prosecute him for, they got him to sign a plea that was not negotiated, it was take it or leave it, and he signed it to save his own hide and get a reduced sentence,” Schlapp said. “It happens in America all the time.”
Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis — who appeared on several morning news programs Wednesday — dismissed the attacks on his client as a diversion tactic.
“When they are caught in a lie, they attack. They divert attention. They lie some more,” he said on CNN.
Focus on ‘collusion’
Trump and the White House will continue to argue that Russian collusion was not a part of Tuesday’s legal meltdown, allies said, a fact Trump sought to drive home repeatedly on Tuesday.
“Where is the collusion? You know they’re still looking for collusion,” he asked during the rally in West Virginia. “Where is the collusion? Find us some collusion. We want to find the collusion.”
It was his only mention of the issue during a rally that focused on trade, immigration and his economic accomplishments.
A source familiar with internal White House discussions said staffers were “stunned” and “rattled” by the day’s bombshell developments. The new legal troubles will drive Trump to work harder to maintain control of the House and Senate in November, one Trump ally says, noting the impeachment implications of losing control of Congress.
On Monday, White House political advisers previewed a heavy campaign schedule for the fall, including up to 40 days of travel before November.
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