The gods of politics apparently are no longer satisfied with run-of-the-mill Trump rallies, high profile court cases and monthly Congressional scandals. On Tuesday, the universe demanded that all of these things happen within a two-hour window. The resulting blur left Washington reeling and much of the country just confused.
What exactly happened? Here’s a quick look (in chronological order)
- Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to several charges and implicated President Donald Trump in campaign finance violations. 4:02 p.m. EDT. The president’s former attorney and “pitbull” enforcer pleaded guilty to eight federal charges, including tax fraud and campaign finance violations. He told the court his campaign finance violations were “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.” Trump is the only such candidate with a known past relationship with Cohen.
- Paul Manafort was found guilty of tax fraud and bank fraud — the first guilty verdicts to come from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. 4:28 p.m. EDT. The former Trump campaign manager was found guilty on eight counts of tax fraud and bank fraud, but jurors could not agree on 10 remaining counts against him. This came after multiple notes from jurors during the day sparked uncertainty about whether they would submit verdicts or not. The verdict was the first for the team led by Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 elections and possible ties to Trump’s campaign. None of the Manafort charges Tuesday were campaign-related or Russia-related. Still, Mueller proved he can get a jury to find a high-profile defendant guilty.
- President Trump reacted to the Manafort verdict. 5:39 p.m. EDT. After landing in West Virginia for an evening rally, the president told reporters he felt very sad about the Manafort verdict and that it has nothing to do with the original purpose of the Mueller investigation — to look at Russian interference.
- Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., was indicted. 6:14 p.m. EDT. The Department of Justice notified reporters that Congressman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and his wife have been indicted for misusing hundred of thousands of dollars in campaign funds. By 8:50 p.m. EDT, Speaker Paul Ryan removed Hunter from his committee assignments, pending the outcome of the case.
- Trump speaks at length, but not about the news of the day. 7:15 p.m. EDT. Before a cheering crowd in Charleston, West Virginia, Trump spoke for more than an hour and 15 minutes but did not mention Manafort, Cohen or Cohen’s charge that Trump himself coordinated campaign finance violations. The event was a campaign rally for Republican Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey.
What we’re watching now:
- Cohen cooperation? We will watch to see if Cohen agrees to cooperate with Mueller’s team in hopes of diminishing the four to five year sentence otherwise ahead of him. His guilty plea was entered without such an agreement in place.
- Manafort appeal? The former campaign consultant must now decide whether, and on what grounds, to appeal the jury’s decision. He could also consider cooperating with Mueller’s investigation, something his deputy Rick Gates decided to do many months ago.