Donald Trump’s former attorney was back for second helpings of federal criminal charges – this time to enter a new plea deal with Robert Mueller and company. Michael Cohen appeared in federal court in Manhattan Thursday where he entered a guilty plea for misstatements to Congress in closed-door testimony last year about his contacts with Russians during the presidential campaign. Mr. Cohen now adds a violation of 18 U.S.C. §1001(a)(2), making false statements, to his earlier admitted crime of violating federal election laws.
These charges have the potential to be much more damaging to President Trump than Cohen’s previous plea.
The Special Counsel’s office publicly released the plea agreement and criminal information statement. It listed the lies Cohen is criminally liable “to (1) minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1 and (2) give the false impression that the Moscow Project ended before ‘the Iowa caucus and the very first primary,’ in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”
These charges have the potential to be much more damaging to President Trump than Cohen’s previous plea. The lawyer already declared his participation in efforts to pay Stormy Daniels to not speak publicly about a night she spent with Donald Trump, and that it criminally violated election laws.
The president began the second day of pre-dawn tweets attacking Mueller and the idea that he “colluded” with Russia, and later, called Cohen a liar who was looking to get leniency for sentencing on his earlier plea.
The Special Counsel has produced no evidence in court that Trump, Cohen, or anyone working under their direction worked with Russians in any way to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. That may be cold comfort for President Trump, however, who must now be worried about his political situation given this plea, to say nothing about the potential for criminal liability.
While discussions between them and statements made by Trump to Cohen are likely privileged as attorney-client communications, there are exceptions to the rule. Planning with Cohen to commit perjury, for instance, would not be covered. Any directives or discussions Trump had with Cohen in which they agreed the attorney would make misstatements to Congress would likely be admissible in court against Trump. They will undoubtedly take center stage in any impeachment proceeding against the president, as House Democrats regain the majority and its powers in January.