Bloomberg has reported that prosecutors from the Southern District of New York have effectively declared war on the president. In the last week it became clear that Michael Cohen had accepted a guilty plea and given testimony incriminating Trump and that prosecutors had offered immunity to Trump’s CFO Weisselberg. In the words on Bloomberg, “Once the Southern District gets its jaws onto a string of crimes, it doesn’t let go”. Weisselberg will likely be required to give information on all criminal activity he knows about, which could pose problems for Trump both personally and in terms of the presidency.
FINSUM: It seems like there is a veritable army of prosecutors and investigators going after Trump right now. It may all not amount to much, but we would expect more turbulence and fireworks.
Yesterday was a rough one for the President. Michael Cohen’s guilty plea, and testimony that he was order to pay two women by Trump using campaign finances caused yet another firestorm for the White House. Trump responded strongly, admitting that he knew of the payments, but denying that they came out of campaign finances, saying he paid for them personally. Lawyers say it will be hard to use Cohen’s testimony to bring charges against Trump. However, Cohen’s lawyer says that his client can also testify that Trump was aware of Russian efforts to interfere with the election before such information was ever reported publicly.
FINSUM: We do not think the campaign finance situation will imperil Trump, but that last statement about Russia is a real x factor which could cause serious trouble.
Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to charges of violating US election laws yesterday. Cohen admitted to making two payments as hush money to Stephanie Clifford and to the owner of the National Enquirer. Cohen also officially implicated the president, saying he was instructed to make the payments by Trump, which would also make Trump potentially culpable. Cohen took a plea deal with prosecutors and will receive between 46 and 63 months in prison. Lawyers say that the testimony puts Trump is hot legal water.
FINSUM: It is beyond us to say how legally troubling this may or may not be, but it is not going to help the president politically.
The White House has been demanding that special counsel Robert Mueller wrap up his investigation into potential collusion with Russia by September 1st. However, the reality is that Mueller is under no obligation to do so and can continue his closed-door investigation up and through the November 6th elections. Bringing indictments near the election would also not violate Justice Department policy meant to deter using indictments to manipulate elections, according to current and former US officials.
FINSUM: We highly doubt Mueller will acquiesce to ending his investigation in the near-term, which means Trump may escalate the situation. Fireworks seem likely.
After a long and quite public back and forth about the potential for an interview, are President Trump and Robert Mueller close to meeting? Trump’s team has apparently responded to Mueller’s request for interview with a counteroffer on the terms. The two parties have been in discussions since at least January. The basic core of the counteroffer is that Trump is happy to talk about collusion with Russia, but not about obstruction of justice. Though Rudy Giuliani, who is on Trump’s legal team, said they did leave the door open to possible questions on obstruction.
FINSUM: This seems like a positive development. It appears like it would be good for all sides to have this investigation finished once and for all, and a sit down with Trump could potentially resolve things.
Rumors of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen turning on the president have been stirring for weeks. Now it appears to have happened, as CNN has published a recording (which it says is from Cohen) of President Trump and Cohen discussing the “financing” of a payment to a former Playboy model. The conversation was apparently about buying the playmate’s story, a story which involved an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
FINSUM: In our view this will likely just cause another minor firestorm. Trump doesn’t say anything really shocking or incriminating in the recording, so we don’t imagine this will have any significant impact.