U.S. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders roundly denied any wrongdoing by President Donald Trump in light of the Tuesday convictions against his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, and campaign advisor, Paul Manafort.
"As the president has said, we've stated many times, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him," Sanders said from the White House on Wednesday. "Just because Michael Cohen made a plea deal doesn't mean that that implicates the president on anything."
According to pundits, the U.S. president suffered a major political and possibly legal setback after Cohen plead guilty to eight charges, including campaign finance violations that involved — at an unnamed "candidate's" direction — paying off women with whom the candidate had had extramarital affairs in order to effect the outcome of the 2016 elections. Cohen’s trial didn’t mention Trump by name.
On Tuesday night Trump said that when he paid back Cohen for the initial pay off he did so with his own money, not from his campaign.
"They weren't taken out of campaign finance. That's a big thing," Trump told Fox News. "They didn't come out of the campaign; they came from me."
Norman Eisen, a former special counsel to President Barack Obama for ethics and government reform, tweeted: “This is the worst hour of Trump’s entire presidency – no, make that entire life."
Cohen also admitted to US$1.3 million in tax evasion.
Paul Manafort, a former 2016 Trump campaign chairman, was convicted on Tuesday of eight counts of financial fraud in an Alexandria, Virginia court.
The separate trials stemmed from an ongoing federal investigation headed by Robert Mueller into possible collusion by the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the 2016 U.S. elections.
Cohen could face up to five years in prison. The judge will decide his final sentencing at a December 12 court date.
Lanny Davis, Cohen’s lawyer, told MSNBC on Tuesday that her client his willing to talk to Mueller for his investigation: "Mr. Cohen has knowledge on certain subjects that should be of interest to the special counsel and is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows."
Davis said Cohen had knowledge of "the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election," as well as "knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime."
Asked if Trump was concerned about what Cohen might tell Mueller, Sanders told reporters on Wednesday: "I don't think the president is concerned at all. He knows that he did nothing wrong and that there was no collusion."
Attorneys in New York subpoenaed Cohen on Wednesday for questioning regarding an investigation of the Trump Foundation, reports The Guardian.
Robert S. Khuzami, the deputy U.S. attorney who prosecuted Cohen, said the convictions against Trump's former lawyer were "very serious charges and reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant a period of time. They are particularly significant when done by a lawyer; a lawyer who, through training and tradition, understands what it means to be a lawyer who upholds honest and fair dealing and adherence to the law."