Politics

Schumer: Republicans ‘Co-Conspirators’ With Trump If Silent on Cohen, Manafort

President’s former campaign chairman and personal attorney guilty on eight charges each

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the GOP was a “co-conspirator” with President Donald Trump if its members did not speak out against the “culture of corruption” surrounding the president. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer slapped a searing label on the Republican party Thursday, saying that if his colleagues across the aisle remain silent on the “culture of corruption” surrounding President Donald Trump, the GOP as a whole would be a “co-conspirator” with the president.

Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of campaign finance, bank loan, and tax fraud and directly implicated the president for directing him to commit a crime in a New York courtroom Tuesday.

Within minutes, roughly 200 miles south at a federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight charges of tax evasion and bank fraud after a three-week jury trial.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Schumer said Trump was “alleged to be an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal crime” for directing Cohen to make hush payments to two former mistresses, including adult film actress and director Stormy Daniels, in the months leading up to his 2016 election victory.

The New York Democrat criticized Republicans for backing Trump despite many of the controversial episodes that have rankled and sidetracked his campaign and administrative agenda since he took office, including the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he appears to brag about sexually assaulting women and the press conference in Helsinki, Finland, last month where he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies by questioning whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

“The price of the Republicans’ Faustian bargain has already become too steep,” Schumer wrote Thursday on Twitter. “Considerations of country & constitution aside, if my Republican colleagues remain silent, the Republican Party is a co-conspirator in the culture of corruption that surrounds this president.”

Some Republican lawmakers did speak up this week about the president’s cadre of former top aides who have pleaded or been found guilty of crimes.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said Wednesday she has never been shy about confronting the president publicly.

“Obviously, Michael Cohen’s assertion that the president directed him to pay this money is not good news for the president,” Collins said.

Former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Cole warned candidates not to rush to the president’s defense in case more incriminating information comes out about the president and they have to eat their words.

“Where there’s smoke, and there’s a lot of smoke, there may well be fire,” Cole told The New York Times.

“Anybody who says this is not disturbing is not being honest,” the former House Republican campaign chairman said. “My advice to any candidate would be: Keep your powder dry and don’t rush to attack or defend anybody because you just don’t know enough to have a reaction that you can still defend three months from now.”

New York Republican Rep. John Katkopushed back against Trump’s assertion that the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is a “witch hunt.”

“When people around you are starting to get themselves convicted, that’s obviously a point of concern,” Katko, a former federal prosecutor, told Syracuse.com.

“I think we have to see this investigation through. It’s not a witch hunt,” Katko said, using a term that the president often invokes in characterizing the Russia investigation.

But others in the party indicated indifference to Cohen’s guilty plea and Manafort’s conviction.

“It is what it is,” GOP Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas told Politico. “I can’t make a difference on that. But I can make a difference on the farm bill.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the criminal downfall of two of the most powerful men in Trump’s inner orbit during his 2016 campaign did not change his view of the president.

“What happens here is, I’m looking for evidence of collusion. That would affect me,” Graham said.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin said he would need “more information than is currently available at this point” to come to a conclusion about what Cohen’s plea deal and his incriminating testimony means for the president.

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