Incoming top Democrats in the US talk of impeachment and jail time for Trump with increasing confidence

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesUS President Donald Trump
  • President Donald Trump could be jailed or impeached based on new legal evidence, top Democrats have said.
  • They were responding to news surrounding Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who has pleaded guilty to facilitating two illegal payments to women during the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • Federal prosecutors on Friday accused Cohen of facilitating the payments “in coordination and at the direction of Individual-1,” who is believed to be Trump.
  • Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman, said Trump could “face the real prospect of jail time” as soon as he leaves office.
  • Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, described the alleged actions as “impeachable offenses,” though he suggested impeachment might not actually be pursued.

The incoming chairs of two powerful House committees have predicted legal peril for President Donald Trump, with one referring to recent accusations about Michael Cohen’s illegal hush-money payments as “impeachable offenses.”

“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, told the CBS show “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“We have been discussing the issue of pardons that the president may offer to people or dangle in front of people. The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.”

Schiff was responding to the latest sentencing document from federal prosecutors on Friday, which alleged that the longtime Trump lawyer and confidant Michael Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1.”

Individual-1 is widely believed to be Trump. The coordination relates to payments to two women who said they had affairs with Trump. The payments, which Cohen has pleaded guilty to facilitating, were considered illegal campaign contributions meant to aid Trump’s campaign.

“With respect to both payments, Cohen acted with the intent to influence the 2016 presidential election,” the memo said.

“In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” it added. “As a result of Cohen’s actions, neither woman spoke to the press prior to the election.”

Read more:
Federal prosecutors say Cohen committed crimes ‘in coordination with and at the direction of’ Trump

Trump on Monday morning described the payments as a “private transaction” that “was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine.” He added that it was the “lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, also told CNN that if Trump were found to have directed the payments, it would amount to “impeachable offenses,” though he did not commit to pursuing impeachment in that scenario.

“They would be impeachable offenses – whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“But certainly they’d be impeachable offenses because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office – that would be an impeachable offence.”

Jerrold NadlerGetty / Andrew BurtonRep. Jerry Nadler, here in 2014, said Trump’s involvement in Cohen’s actions — if true — were ‘impeachable offenses.’

Nadler added that Congress might not immediately impeach Trump, calling the action “an attempt to, in effect, overturn the result of the last election.” He said Congress should consider impeachment “only for very serious situations.”

“You don’t necessarily launch an impeachment against the president because he committed an impeachable offence,” he said. “There are several things you have to look at.”

He added: “One, were impeachable offenses committed, how many, et cetera. Secondly, how important were they? Do they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment?”

The new Congress is scheduled to convene on January 3.

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