An Expert Explains What Cohen & Manafort's Cases Could Mean For Impeachment
The past 24 hours have definitely not been easy for the Trump administration. From plea deals to actual felony convictions, it looks like Trump's team is taking hit after hit. However, the question on everyone's mind is if Trump can be impeached after the Cohen and Manafort cases? According to expert Barbara Radnofsky, the idea isn't super far fetched.
Critics have been calling for Trump's impeachment since the day he took office, but as of the week of Aug. 21 those dreams might become a reality for some. How, might you ask? On Tuesday, Aug. 21, Donald Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight counts of financial fraud in a New York City courtroom. The charges include five counts of of tax evasion, one count of false statements to financial institutions, one count of cause of unlawful corporate contribution, and one count of excessive campaign contribution. This is pretty bad news as is, but believe it or not it gets even worse for Donald Trump. During the plea deal, Cohen admitted to paying Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, two women who claimed to have had affairs with Donald Trump years ago, at the “direction of the candidate," which might indicate Trump. Trump has denied claims of affairs with both women. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on Cohen's claims, but did not immediately hear back.
Barbara Radnofsky, lawyer and author of A Citizen's Guide to Impeachment, spoke to Elite Daily by email about the implications of Cohen's plea deal, and what it could mean for Trump: particularly Cohen's claims that the president directed him to make the payments to Daniels and McDougal. Radnofsky, who is not involved in any legal proceedings involving either Trump or Cohen, explains that there are three grounds for impeachment in the United States: bribery or treason, which are rarely used as they're very narrow and difficult to prove, and the much vaguer "high crimes and misdemeanors" — which is where Trump could run into trouble.
According to Radnofsky, Trump's alleged connection to the payments is an impeachable offense, because Trump's actions could be considered "harmful to the country, people or system of government," which qualifies under "high crimes and misdemeanors." She says that Cohen's claim that Trump directed him to pay off Daniels and McDougal is the most dangerous part of Cohen's plea for Trump.
It shows the president’s continuing course of denials and attacks on future witnesses in proceedings — from the time he was candidate, nominee and into his presidency were a series of lies, witness tampering and discrediting to cover up his involvement in very very very harmful acts to our country, including interference with our elections.
Following Cohen's plea deal, Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis shared a statement with Elite Daily, in which he also suggested Trump should be liable for the crimes Cohen pleaded guilty to. Davis says,
Michael Cohen took this step today so that his family can move on to the next chapter. This is Michael fulfilling his promise made on July 2nd to put his family and country first and tell the truth about Donald Trump. Today he stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election. If those payments were a crime for Michael Cohen, then why wouldn't they be a crime for Donald Trump?
Cohen's not the only one on the hook right now. On the same day as Cohen's plea, Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight charges of financial crimes, including five counts of tax fraud, one count of hiding foreign bank accounts, and two counts of bank fraud. While Manafort may not have mentioned Trump during his trial, Radnofsky still believes his conviction will carry some weight on Trump's possible impeachment.
"It shows the professionalism and seriousness of the entire process," she says. "[The conviction] gives us hope that ordinary citizens still make a difference, and the collective wisdom of a U.S. jury can help resist a tyrant who seeks to intimidate and impede in every aspect of the administration of justice."
The future of Trump's presidency is certainly up in the air, and the president is handling it in classic Trump fashion: by tweeting. On Aug. 22, Trump took to Twitter to share some thoughts on the current Manafort and Cohen drama.
We already know that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into Trump's past tweets for evidence of possible obstruction of justice. Well, Trump's recent Twitter rant against Cohen definitely isn't helping him appeal to the larger public.
"Trump’s tweets hurt him long term for his incriminating comments," Radnofsky says. "He’s proving violation of his constitutionally duties to 'faithfully execute his office' and to 'preserve protect and defend' as he obviously interferes with current and future witnesses and trials."
You know what they say, when one door closes another one opens. We'll just have to wait and see how everything plays out.