The lawyer plead guilty on Tuesday to helping President Trump pay hush money to two women.
If there was any doubt whether Michael Cohen had flipped, despite statements that he was not cooperating with the government as part of his guilty plea and refusing to name the “candidate” who instructed him to violate campaign finance law, that was promptly dissolved in the following hours when Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis said that his client has “knowledge” about computer hacking and collusion, and is willing to speak with Special Counsel Robert Mueller about a “conspiracy to collude” with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Cohen, who pleaded guilty on Tuesday to helping President Trump pay hush money to two women, wants to tell Mueller that Trump knew of an infamous 2016 meeting at Trump Tower and the Russian hacking of Democratic institutions before they took place, Davis told MSNBC, deciding that any “attorney client” privilege in this case is strictly optional.
“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 told MSNBC on Tuesday.
“Not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American democracy system in the 2016 election, which the Trump Tower meeting was all about, but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 22, 2018
More troubling for Trump, Davis said on Wednesday then said that “there is no dispute that Trump committed a crime” as he repeated that “Cohen has knowledge of a Russian conspiracy”, even if it was still unclear if Cohen or Davis have any evidence or proof to substantiate their allegations.
According to the NY Post, last month a source told the publication that Cohen was present when Trump was informed by his son Donald Trump Jr. that Russians offered “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton. Trump claimed he “didn’t know anything about the meeting” because “nobody told me” about it.
Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign was involved in Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections continues. But Mueller handed off the Cohen case to federal prosecutors in New York, which means that his guilty plea intensifies a second — and entirely separate — investigation that could threaten the president.
Trump tried to shrug off the Manafort conviction, telling reporters Tuesday that “it had nothing to do with Russian collusion, so we continue the witch hunt.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said the Cohen plea deal wasn’t related to Trump. “There is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen,” he said in a statement. “It is clear that, as the prosecutor noted, Mr. Cohen’s actions reflect a pattern of lies and dishonesty over a significant period of time.”
While Cohen didn’t name Trump in court, referring instead to a “candidate” who directed him to make the illegal payments, Davis was more direct, saying in a statement later Tuesday that Cohen “stood up and testified under oath that Donald Trump directed him to commit a crime by making payments to two women for the principal purpose of influencing an election.”
If Trump knew about the payments and that they were illegal, he could be charged with violating election law for accepting illegal payments and not disclosing them, said Paul S. Ryan, a campaign finance lawyer with Common Cause. Current Justice Department guidelines state that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and that any wrongdoing should be referred to Congress for impeachment proceedings. Those guidelines aren’t binding.
Nearly at the same time as Cohen pled guilty, in a Virginia courtroom Trump’s former campaign finance chair, Tim Manafort was found guilty on five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to file a financial document with the government, and two counts of bank fraud. The jury couldn’t reach a decision on the other 10 counts. He was accused of lying to tax authorities about his income and offshore tax accounts, failing to file reports about those accounts, and defrauding banks to get loans.
“It’s a witch hunt and it’s a disgrace,” Trump said Tuesday of the Manafort verdict. “This has nothing what they started out looking for – Russians involved in our campaign, there were none.” Trump declined to answer questions on Cohen.
"Nothing to do with Russian collusion, continue with the witch hunt." Trump briefly talks Manafort; mum on Cohen. pic.twitter.com/8x8YswReFQ
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 21, 2018
The media is now speculating whether Trump will pardon Manafort, who is reportedly evaluating all options.
Meanwhile, speaking on CNN on Wednesday, Davis said that Michael Cohen wouldn’t accept a pardon if one was offered by Trump, and instead Davis urged people to support Cohen using a GoFundMe fund with a $500k goal.
Playing the “remorseful criminal” card, Davis also told MSNBC that it was Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki that marked “a significant turning point” for Cohen and encouraged him to come forward out of concern about the U.S. future. “That shook up Mr. Cohen” who may be a tax-evading criminal but is first and foremost a patriot.
Top Photo | President Donald Trump speaks during his meeting with members of his cabinet in Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, July 18, 2018. Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP