Rep. Adam Schiff, the incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman, has already said he believes the Justice Department could indict President Donald Trump when he is no longer in office and that the president could face jail time.
On Tuesday, he explained why.
“Here’s the thing,” Schiff said in an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “If the Justice Department takes the position that Michael Cohen should go to jail, that these allegations are so serious that he should go to jail for these campaign fraud allegations, what is the argument against jail for the individual who coordinated and directed that scheme?”
Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and political fixer, was sentenced to three years in jail after pleading guilty to lying to Congress, illegally paying hush money to a pornographic actress and Playboy model, and committing other crimes.
“Blind loyalty” to Trump led him down “a path of darkness over light,” Cohen said at his sentencing.
Cohen received three years behind bars after the Justice Department submitted a letter calling for only partial leniency for him because he did not sign a formal cooperation agreement.
He has said, however, that he would appear before Congress to tell them what he knows of Trump’s inner circle.
Cohen has directly implicated Trump in a series of campaign finance violations in 2016, saying that the then-Republican nominee for president, known in court documents as “Individual 1,” told him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to two women in the sex industry, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, to keep quiet about affairs he had with them in the 2000s.
Since those payments were intended to help the president’s chances of winning the 2016 election, they should have been reported on his campaign finance reports, prosecutors argued in their case against Cohen. If Trump orchestrated those payments and knew they were illegal if left unreported on his FEC reports, that would constitute a felony, experts have said.
Schiff told Colbert Tuesday that it’s unclear how prosecutors will proceed with their lead on the president’s implication in the matter.
“But all the arguments the Justice Department made about Michael Cohen — that the rich and powerful shouldn’t play by a different set of rules as average people who are out there walking precincts and calling and text-banking and doing legitimate things to try to affect the outcome of an election — the rich and powerful shouldn’t play by some other set of rules,” Schiff said. “That argument applies with equal force to the president of the United States.”
The Justice Department has ongoing investigations into multiple business and government entities that Trump has led, including the 2016 campaign, his presidential transition and inauguration teams, and the Trump Organization.
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