“Only the Best People.” Two More Trump Campaign Officials Guilty

Paul Manafort’s verdict and Michael Cohen’s guilty plea bring the number of criminal campaign workers up to five.

American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12
American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12 (NATO)

Remember Donald Trump’s promise to hire “only the best people”? Now at least five of his top campaign workers turn out to be criminals.

  • Paul Manafort, Trump’s second campaign chairman, has been found guilty of filing false tax returns, failing to report a foreign bank account and bank fraud. All the charges were related to his political work for pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. A jury in Virginia did not reach a verdict on allegations of bank fraud conspiracy.
  • Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime personal attorney, has pleaded guilty to tax evasion, making false financial statements and breaking campaign finance laws to pay off a Playboy model and a porn actress. Axios reports that, during his guilty plea, Cohen said he was directed to do so by an “unnamed candidate”. Guess who?

Criminals

Earlier, Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to various crimes, including lying to the FBI and failing to register as foreign agents. They are cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

It is unclear if Cohen will cooperate with Mueller as well.

For Manafort, it isn’t over yet. He faces another criminal trail, in Washington DC, next month, where he will defend himself against charges that failed to register as a foreign agent and obstructed justice.

Worse to come

For Trump, it can only get worse between now and the November midterm elections, as Paul Waldman points out in The Washington Post.

  • Mueller could hand down more indictments or release his findings.
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former Trump advisor, is expected to release tapes of embarrassing conversations she had in the White House.
  • A lawsuit will begin in Texas in which Republican states and the administration will be arguing for the entire Affordable Care Act to be struck down, handing Democrats a priceless campaign issue.
  • Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court will take place. Even if the process ends with a win for Trump, it could also generate a left-wing backlash.

FiveThirtyEight currently gives the Democrats a three-in-four chance of winning back the House of Representatives. Trump’s Republicans are likely to defend their majority in the Senate.