Impeachable offenses don’t mean House will act on Trump, Democratic lawmaker says

In court, the NY prosecutors and attorneys representing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia's alleged interference in the president's campaign, made their case for why Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, deserve imprisonment.

Trump's own Justice Department has now implicated him in a crime, accusing him of directing illegal hush-money payments to women during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Federal prosecutors said on Friday that President Trump directed illegal payments to ward off a potential sex scandal that threatened his chances of winning the White House in 2016, putting the weight of the Justice Department behind accusations previously made by his former lawyer.

Donald Trump coordinated with Michael Cohen to commit federal campaign fraud, prosecutors state in a sentencing memo filed December 7 advising a substantial prison term for crimes to which Cohen has pleaded guilty.

However, there was no ambiguity in the court documents that prosecutors believe Cohen's actions were criminal and Trump was directly involved.

Trump has denied the affairs and has not been accused of any crimes related to the payments.

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including campaign finance violations, and detailed an illegal operation to stifle sex stories and distribute hush money to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who had both claimed they had affairs with Trump.

"Not only does it not pass the smell test, I think it undermines the reason why we have presidential pardons in the first place" and could lead to a debate about amending the president's authority to pardon.

Courts have never had to answer the question of whether presidents can pardon themselves. "Do you believe there's already enough to start an impeachment inquiry?"

The New York prosecutors said in their filing that Cohen should receive some credit for his cooperation with Mr Mueller. "We may get there, but we're not there now".

Federal law requires that any payments made "for the purposes of influencing" an election must be reported in campaign finance disclosures. He also warned the White House about considering a pardon for Manafort, saying such a step could trigger congressional debate about limiting a president's pardon powers. "We've over-criminalized campaign finance".

Republican Senator Marco Rubio told CNN he was waiting for the results of the Russian Federation investigation and related federal probes.

Professor Blackman said the statute of limitations for a campaign finance law violation - like the one Cohen pleaded guilty to - would be five years. House Democrats have promised an array of investigations into Trump's activities.

"They would be impeachable offences", Nadler said.

But prosecutors said in the memo that Cohen committed an array of different crimes that undermine several different "pillars of our society and our government": a failure to pay taxes, an attempt to manipulate transparent and fair elections, and being truthful in business and in government testimony.

  • Tracy Klein