Michael Cohen 'should serve substantial prison sentence,' prosecutors say

Donald Trump made illegal payments to two women before 2016 US elections, say prosecutors
Prosecutors: Illegal hush-money paid at Trump's 'direction'

11 December, 2018

In a court filing, prosecutors said former Trump lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen arranged the secret payments at the height of the 2016 campaign "in co-ordination with and at the direction of" Trump.

"Now the question that's presented just by Michael Cohen's plea and the Justice Department filing: Is a crime directed and coordinated by the president which helped him obtain office sufficient to warrant his removal from that office?"

Democratic Representative Jerry Nadler of NY, who is expected to be appointed chair of the House Judiciary Committee in January, said that it would be an "impeachable offense" if Trump were shown to have directed hush money payments to two women who claim to have had affairs with him. NY prosecutors also alleged that Cohen, at Trump's direction, orchestrated hush money payments to Trump's former mistresses to prevent them from telling their stories in the media ahead of the election.

But there's no ambiguity in Friday's filing that prosecutors believe Cohen's act was criminal and Trump was directly involved, a remarkable disclosure with potential political and legal ramifications for a president dogged by investigations.

Trump has denied the affairs and has not been accused of any crimes related to the payments.

Mr Cohen has pleaded guilty to several charges, including campaign finance violations, and is awaiting sentencing.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, likewise said lawmakers need to see the "full picture" before they determine whether or not to move ahead with impeachment proceedings.

Courts have never had to answer the question of whether the president can pardon himself.

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Still, he questioned whether the efforts to silence the women "rise to the gravity" of formally ousting Trump from office. Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has also said that a president can not be indicted. "We will try to get to the bottom of this, in order to serve the American people and to stop this massive conspiracy - this massive fraud on the American people". "We've over-criminalized campaign finance".

There would presumably be no bar against charging a president after he leaves the White House.

The special counsel's document filed Friday shows new information dating back to November 2015 about Cohen's attempts to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to the report.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who also appeared on "Meet the Press", pivoted from the discussion about hush money payments to raising a general complaint about the laws governing campaign finances. The payments are likely to become a target for House Democrats gearing up to investigate the president next year.

"They would be impeachable offences", Nadler said.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was paid $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement signed days before the 2016 election and is now suing to dissolve that contract.

Rick Hasen, a professor who specialises in election and campaign finance law at the University of California, says "there is a plausible case against the President".

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