- Republicans have downplayed the fact President Donald Trump has been implicated in serious crimes by federal prosecutors and Michael Cohen.
- Democrats have said no one is above the law in response to the implications against Trump.
- On Wednesday, the president’s former lawyer and fixer was sentenced to three years in prison for the nine charges to which he’s pleaded guilty.
The difference between Republican and Democratic reactions to the sentencing of Michael Cohen and the potential legal repercussions for President Donald Trump could not be more stark.
A number of top Republican lawmakers have shrugged off the fact Trump has been implicated in serious crimes by his former personal lawyer and federal prosecutors. Meanwhile, Democrats have rallied behind the message that no one is above the law – not even the president.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley on Wednesday said Cohen is a liar who cannot be trusted, echoing recent statements made by Trump. During a conference call with reporters,Grassley said, “To what extent do you want to put confidence in what a liar says?”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump who will become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, also downplayed Wednesday’s developments. “Any time a former lawyer of yours goes to jail it’s probably not a good day, but I have yet to see any evidence coming from Mr. Cohen of collusion,” Graham said.
In an interview on the matter on Tuesday, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch took things a step further when he said he did not care that federal prosecutors implicated Trump in felonies.
“I don’t care, all I can say is he is doing a good job as president. … I don’t think he was involved in crimes, but even then, you know, you can make anything a crime under the current laws if you want to,” Hatch said.
CNN put together a montage of Senate Republicans — including Susan Collins, John Thune, Bill Cassidy, and Orrin Hatch — each shrugging off the president being implicated in felonies by federal prosecutors. pic.twitter.com/rrVWgjGQxV
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 11, 2018
Comparatively, Democrats have stopped just short of labelling Trump a criminal.
Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu on Wednesday told CNN, “Michael Cohen specifically says that Donald Trump directed him to make these campaign-finance payments. That means we have a person sitting in the White House right now who is essentially an unindicted coconspirator.”
Similarly, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted saying Cohen’s sentencing shows “nobody is above the law,” including “the President himself.”
Recent developments surrounding Cohen and Trump have also increased discussions on impeachment.
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, likely the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN on Sunday that the campaign-finance violations Cohen implicated Trump in would be “impeachable offenses.”
“Whether they’re important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,” Nadler added.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal crimes, including tax fraud, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations. The campaign finance violations were related to hush-money payments to two women who said they had affairs with Trump. Cohen said he made the payments at Trump’s direction in order to influence the election.
Federal prosecutors in a sentencing memo last Friday endorsed Cohen’s allegation, stating he made the payments “in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump.
Justice Department policy says a sitting president cannot be indicted, but that is not settled law and there is now a broader discussion about what legal repercussions Trump might face moving forward.
More recently, Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. This came after a new plea deal with the special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion between the country and the Trump campaign.
On Wednesday, the president’s former lawyer and fixer was sentenced to three years in prison for the nine charges to which he pleaded guilty.
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