The investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election has grown dramatically. A complex examination from the start, it is now a blur of characters, charges, and counter-charges.
This timeline is a tool aimed at understanding the growing number of dots and where they connect. But, now new information has come out of the woodworks yet again. Earlier this week shocking news surrounding both former Trump chairman Paul Manafort and former personal lawyer for President Trump was released.
Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to financial crimes earlier this year, most of which were tied to his work as a pro-Russian lobbyist. But, he worked out a plea agreement to cooperate with Mueller's investigation, in exchange for possibly having some charges dropped.
Now, Mueller's office is accusing him of breaking their agreement. Apparently, Manafort lied to them about numerous things – including when and how often he's been chatting with Trump administration officials.
But yet another one bites the dust… all eyes are on Michael Cohen aka President Trump's former personal lawyer this week. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to charges like campaign finance violations. Then, as part of Mueller's investigation, he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a potential Trump business deal in Russia. Now Mueller's team says that Cohen's aided the investigation but NY prosecutors said he should still see significant prison time.
Federal prosecutors in New York said that Trump directed Cohen, his former personal attorney and “fixer,” to steer money to pay off two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump in order to prevent negative information from surfacing that would hurt his chances in the 2016 election. Cohen will be sentenced on Wednesday.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to two campaign finance violations in connection with the payoff schemes, implicating his former boss in dramatic courthouse testimony back in August. But the latest filing suggested that U.S. prosecutors themselves have evidence showing that Trump directed the payments beyond Cohen’s claims.
“In the memo in the case of Mr. Cohen, prosecutors from the Southern District of New York depicted Mr. Trump, identified only as “Individual-1,” as an accomplice in the hush payments. While Mr. Trump was not charged, the reference echoed Watergate, when President Richard M. Nixon was named an “unindicted co-conspirator” by a grand jury investigating the cover-up of the break-in at the Democratic headquarters.
"While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows,” the prosecutors wrote.
“He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs with Individual-1,” they continued. “In the process, Cohen deceived the voting public by hiding alleged facts that he believed would have had a substantial effect on the election.”
Experts remark that this could signal that Trump is in legal danger, given that an individual who is shown to have directed a subordinate to commit a crime is also implicated in the criminal conduct. Basically, if he did it for you, you’re probably going to get in trouble eventually. President Trump has not yet been charged with a crime.
Top House Democrats have raised the prospect of impeachment or the real possibility of prison time for President Donald Trump if it’s proved that he directed illegal hush money payments to women, adding to the legal pressure on the president over the Russia investigation and other scandals.
“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,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee. “The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump.”