Michael Cohen's plea deal chucked a live political grenade into the debate over President Trump's legal exposure – but that debate is far from settled, as experts clash over whether his implication of the president in campaign finance violations will amount to anything.
The president’s former longtime personal attorney and self-described “fixer” entered a guilty plea with federal prosecutors on Tuesday, admitting to violating campaign finance laws by arranging hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal “at the direction” of then-candidate Trump.
Trump, though, claimed the move to pay off the two women was not a crime -- while suggesting such allegations can be settled by fine.
“Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump
Michael Cohen plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime. President Obama had a big campaign finance violation and it was easily settled!9:37 AM - Aug 22, 2018
Trump was referring to former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, which was fined $375,000 bythe Federal Election Commission for a series of missing notices for more than 1,300 contributions. They totaled $1.8 million.
But Lanny Davis, Cohen’s attorney, argued there is little room for interpretation here.
“There is no question that he’s committed a federal crime,” Davis told Fox News' “America’s Newsroom” on Wednesday. He also argued that it's never been settled whether a sitting president can be indicted, despite suggestions to the contrary from Trump allies.
Davis added that his client, under oath on Tuesday, admitted to making the “donations to keep quiet two women” at Trump's direction.
At issue is a $130,000 hush money payment made by Cohen to Daniels in the weeks leading up to the presidential election in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump, and the McDougal case, where she was paid $150,000 by the parent company of the National Enquirer for her story about an alleged 2006 affair with Trump, which it never published. Cohen admitted Tuesday