P Photo/Alex Brandon

Legal teams attempt to spin cases as blows to Trump presidency

August 21, 2018 - 9:46 pm

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump watched as two onetime members of his inner circle simultaneously were labeled "guilty" of criminal charges. Although Trump largely ignored the back-to-back blows at a campaign rally in West Virginia, questions mounted about his possible legal exposure and political future.

Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of financial crimes at nearly the same moment Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a series of felonies, including campaign finance violations that the lawyer said he carried out in coordination with Trump.

With two men who played prominent roles on the president's campaign convicted of multiple criminal charges, none of the charges came close to proving Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

President Trump spent an hour-plus rally in Charleston on Tuesday night painting a rosy view of his accomplishments in office, ticking off developments on trade, taxes, North Korea and even his plans for a Space Force.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

"What we're doing is winning," Trump told cheering supporters.

"Where is the collusion?" he demanded, underscoring that Manafort's crimes had occurred before he became involved with the Trump campaign. "You know they're still looking for collusion."

The president did say he felt "badly for both" men, but he largely ignored Cohen's guilty pleas to eight felonies.

Manafort was convicted Tuesday in Virginia on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice. Cohen pleaded guilty in New York, saying he and Trump had arranged the payment of what prosecutors called 'hush money' to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

On his radio and TV shows, host Mark Levin clarified the case by saying Cohen pleaded guilty to some charges that weren't even crimes.  “Let’s say a candidate says, ‘Get a nondisclosure agreement, pay the funds out of my pocket, because I don’t want this person to attack me during the campaign for something that occurred before the campaign.’ That’s perfectly legal. That’s not a campaign expenditure, it's not hush money,” Levin said.  

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani sought to cast the blame solely on Cohen in a Tuesday statement, saying: "There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the President in the government's charges against Mr. Cohen."

Trump's legal team has also been engaged in a months-long negotiation with Mueller's team about a potential sit-down with the president, but has objected to the scope of the questions.

In a separate courtroom Tuesday, prosecutors and defense attorneys for former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn agreed to postpone his sentencing after he pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian official, in a sign his cooperation was still needed in the Mueller probe.

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