'Watergate on Steriods': Michael Cohen Pleads Guilty and Implicates Trump
Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime public pitbull, famously declared that he would “take a bullet” for the president as a signal of his unbending loyalty. On Tuesday afternoon, the bullet came and Cohen largely ducked it. Trump’s former personal attorney pleaded guilty to an array of federal criminal charges including bank fraud, tax fraud, and violations of campaign finance laws. But he also explained that he had violated the latter “in coordination and at the direction” of then-candidate Trump—though he refused to actually name his former boss—by arranging hush-money payments to two of the president’s alleged one-time mistresses.
While the IRS and the Tax Division at Justice Department headquarters signed off on the charges against Cohen, it remains possible for them to bleed into the Russia investigation too. The office of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing that inquiry, was consulted on the charges but did not formally have to sign off on them. More importantly, ex-federal prosecutors told The Daily Beast that Special Counsel Robert Mueller could still attempt to gain information from Cohen (should he deem it worthwhile to do so) in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Even on their own, however, the charges Cohen faces create clear legal and political problems for Trump. “Not only did Cohen make an excessive and unreported contribution to the campaign, the campaign also accepted an excessive contribution and failed to report it,” said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center.