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Trump denies wrongdoing after ex-lawyer plea deal

August 23, 2018

The US president and the White House went on the defense after Trump's ex-lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to several charges, including campaign finance violations. Trump alleged that the charges were "not a crime."

US President Donald Trump
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Everet

The White House maintained on Wednesday that a plea deal made by US President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen did not implicate the president in a crime.

"As the president has said, we've stated many times, he did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a White House briefing.

"Just because Michael Cohen made a plea deal doesn't mean that that implicates the president on anything," she added.

On Tuesday, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including campaign finance violations, tax evasion and bank fraud. The guilty charges were part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Trump was also dealt a second blow on Tuesday, as his former campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted of multiple counts of fraud.

Trump: Cohen charges 'not a crime'

The US president attempted to downplay the charges against Cohen, writing in a tweet that the two criminal charges for campaign finance violations were "not a crime."

"If you're looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen!" Trump wrote in one tweet.

As part of the plea deal, Cohen admitted to using campaign funds to pay porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal in exchange for their keeping silent about their reputed affairs with Trump.

Trump told Fox News on Wednesday that he knew of the payments that Cohen made, but only "later on." He also claimed the payments came from his personal finances and not from the campaign.

While lashing out at his former lawyer, Trump praised his former campaign manager for not cooperating with federal authorities. He described Manafort as "a brave man," saying that he "refused to 'break' — make up stories in order to get a 'deal'."

The White House said that the option of Trump pardoning Manafort was not currently being discussed.

Democrats call for Supreme Court nominee to be blocked

Following Tuesday's developments, Democrat lawmakers called for confirmation hearings to be delayed for Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The Democrats argued that the Cohen's guilty pleas concerning the payments to Daniels and McDougal implicate Trump in a federal crime.

They also argued that Kavanaugh should also answer questions about executive power, including whether a president can be forced to comply with a subpoena.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate shouldn't confirm a Supreme Court judge who believes that presidents "are virtually above the law."

Impeachment or indictment?

The case has also raised questions about the legal consequences for Trump. His role, however, as the country's chief law enforcement officer could block a possible indictment.

"It's not even clear whether or not you can indict that person because he is, essentially the guardian of the constitution," Tyson Barker, a political analyst at the Berlin-based Aspen Institute told DW.

"The avenue for addressing this is not a criminal avenue, it's a political avenue," Barker said, adding that impeachment proceedings were the most likely route — but only if Republicans lose seats in Congress at November's midterm elections.

rs/rc   (AP, dpa, Reuters)