2 Ex-Trump Confidants: Cohen Pleads Guilty, Jury Convicts Manafort
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Two significant moments in the Trump presidency came at about the same time yesterday in courtrooms a few hundred miles apart. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted of multiple federal crimes. And the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including violating campaign finance law by paying for the silence of two women. Both women said they had affairs with Trump. And Cohen said he was acting on Trump's direction. For more, we spoke a bit earlier this morning with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Good morning, Senator.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Good morning to you. Thank you.
GREENE: So I saw a tweet from you yesterday after Michael Cohen pleaded guilty, saying President Trump is an unindicted criminal co-conspirator. And I just wonder, after months of seeming not to believe Michael Cohen when he denied wrongdoing himself, why are you ready to take his word now?
BLUMENTHAL: If Donald Trump were anyone but the president of the United States, he would be now charged with a crime, the conspiracy to commit those crimes that Cohen did. And there's more than just Michael Cohen's word for it. The government said in court yesterday that it had other evidence to corroborate Michael Cohen. So this investigation is going to move forward. We're in a Watergate moment, and the White House looks increasingly like a criminal enterprise.
GREENE: Are you saying that he's being treated differently because he's president because of Department of Justice rules that they cannot indict a sitting president? Because that certainly seems like it could be at play, but couldn't it also be that they just don't have evidence of President Trump doing clear wrongdoing yet?
BLUMENTHAL: There's evidence in Michael Cohen's guilty plea agreement - more than enough to indict someone. But the Department of Justice may have the view - and it's a serious view - that a sitting president cannot be indicted. My own view is the president of the United States can be indicted if the trial is postponed. But we will know more as the Mueller investigation proceeds methodically and meticulously.
GREENE: I want to talk to you about the potential role of Congress because the question of impeachment has started to come up if Democrats were to take control of the House this fall. Given how many Democrats defended Bill Clinton and said lying about a relationship was not something that should be impeachable, would your party be in a pretty tough spot if the party tried this?
BLUMENTHAL: The remedies for the wrongdoing committed by President Trump will have to await further progress in the special counsel investigation. This investigation is producing more indictments. It's clearly not a witch hunt or a hoax. And the remedies will depend on what exactly is found by the investigation. I believe the president could be indicted, even if the trial is postponed. But the report produced by the special prosecutor will decide what exactly the remedy should be.
GREENE: But if you don't mind addressing my political question, I guess I wonder if the focus of this investigation and if the conversation starts to be these alleged affairs - I guess I just wonder if your party might risk hypocrisy, given what we saw during the Bill Clinton years.
BLUMENTHAL: There is no hypocrisy in awaiting the results of the special counsel to complete his investigation. We are in a Watergate moment when the president of the United States is an unnamed, unindicted co-conspirator. And the kind of wrongdoing he's committed cannot be pardoned. It would be an abuse of power and a possible obstruction of justice. And this investigation must be protected against the continuing assault and the attempt to intimidate and throw it off track.
GREENE: You keep using the term Watergate moment. I wonder if we're going to be hearing more and more of that type of language from the party heading into the fall. And are you convinced that that's what American voters want to hear about as they consider who to vote for, or might there be other issues they want to be talking about and hearing from your party?
BLUMENTHAL: American voters want a commitment to health care and jobs and economic progress. They also want accountability for any wrongdoing that has been committed. So the checks on the president's power - a president that seems to be out of control - will very much be an issue along with health care, the economy, jobs, other kinds of economic progress.
GREENE: Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, we always appreciate you giving us the time. Thanks so much.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.