In court filings Friday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York linked President Trump to two crimes his former lawyer Michael Cohen admitted to committing on his behalf in 2016. "What the prosecutors did not say in Mr. Cohen's sentencing memorandum," The New York Times reported Sunday, "is that they have continued to scrutinize what other executives in the president's family business may have known about those crimes, which involved hush-money payments to two women who had said they had affairs with Mr. Trump," porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
The federal prosecutors did not directly accuse Trump of committing a crime, but they said Friday that "with respect to both payments, [Cohen] acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump. Cohen has said he believed Trump personally approved the Trump Organization's decision to reimburse him for the hush payments, and he told prosecutors that the company's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was involved in discussions about the payments, the Times reports.
"While the prevailing view at the Justice Department is that a sitting president cannot be indicted, the prosecutors in Manhattan could consider charging him after leaving office," the Times notes. Trump still owns the Trump Organization through a trust, and the company and its executives — including Trump's children — are not protected by the Justice Department opinion against prosecuting Trump in office.
"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," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House intelligence committee, said on CBS's Face The Nation. "The bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump." Schiff has previously said the intelligence committee will examine Trump's family business. Peter Weber
On Monday afternoon, President Trump once again criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter, but this time it wasn't for recusing himself in the Russia investigation. In this case, Trump took aim at "Jeff" and "the Jeff Sessions Justice Department" for filing charges against "two very popular Republican congressmen," presumably Reps. Chris Collins (N.Y.) and Duncan Hunter (Calif.), and endangering "two easy wins" in November. Collins and Hunter were two of the first members of Congress to endorse Trump.
Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff......
Aside from being wrong on the timing — the Collins investigation started during Trump's tenure and the Hunter investigation began in June 2016 — Trump is clearly suggesting that the Justice Department should protect him and the Republican Party's congressional majority, not prosecute crime impartially. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was one of the few Republicans to interrupt their Labor Day to comment on Trump's tweet, insisting that "the United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice — one for the majority party and one for the minority party."
GOP Sen. Ben Sasse suggests Trump’s tweets about Sessions hurting GOP congressmen akin to a “banana republic” pic.twitter.com/mVEQRzGlAo
Lawfare editor in chief Benjamin Wittes saw Trump's tweet as clear proof that for Trump, "the job of the Justice Department in his view is to protect his friends and punish his enemies," while Ken "Popehat" White suggested "it is 100 percent outside his comprehension why this is bad." You can watch more reactions, plus some additional context, on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 below. Peter Weber