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This Week: Trump Allies Found Guilty Of Federal Crimes

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August 24, 2018 2:31 p.m.

It was a banner week for the Trump presidency, with his former personal attorney Michael Cohen pleading guilty on eight counts of financial crimes and a jury convicting his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on eight of his own.

The Manafort conviction in Alexandria, Virginia marks the first Trump-Russia trial under Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s belt. After three-and-a-half days of deliberation, the jury found Manafort guilty on multiple counts of tax and bank fraud. One juror, who later said she was a Trump supporter who saw the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt,” said there was only one dissenting voice saving Manafort from 10 additional counts of conspiracy related to his bank loans.

The Cohen probe by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office came out of a referral from Mueller’s team. He pleaded guilty to six counts related to tax and bank fraud, and two campaign finance violations. In a dramatic courtroom moment, he said he paid off women “at the direction” of Trump himself.

Cohen’s plea deal did not stipulate cooperation with authorities, but his attorney said he has information for state investigators probing the Trump Foundation and for Mueller. Specifically, Cohen’s team is alleging Trump knew ahead of time about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Tabloid executive David Pecker and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg were both granted immunity in the Cohen probe, tightening the noose around Trump.

Cohen has also set up a GoFundMe to help cover his legal fees.

The President didn’t take these developments well. Claiming “flipping” should almost “be outlawed,” he called Cohen a bad lawyer, lauded Manafort as a “brave man” for fighting the charges against him, and claiming that the campaign finance charges Cohen pleaded guilty to were “not a crime.”

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that the White House was not considering a pardon for Manafort. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Trump actually asked Giuliani and the rest of his legal team’s advice on a pardon weeks ago, and they advised him against it.

As Giuliani put it in an interview this week, sometimes “truth isn’t truth.”

The White House is apparently also nervous about what White House Don McGahn told Mueller over the course of 30 hours of interviews.

Trump allies are trying to shift the conversation away from these mounting legal troubles by exploiting the murder of a young Iowa college student by an undocumented immigrant.

Maria Butina, indicted on federal charges for acting as a covert Russian agent, said in a legal filing that “sexist” prosecutors twisted her words to make false claims that she offered sex for a job.

Former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos continues to hint he may scrap his plea deal with Mueller for lying to the FBI to risk scoring a pardon from Trump.

Democrats are coordinating a behind-the-scenes contingency plan in the event that Trump fires Mueller.

And former government contractor Reality Winner was sentenced to a record-breaking five years for leaking a classified document related to Russia’s 2016 election hacking.

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