BREAKING NEWS Deputies searching for armed man who robbed a Cottonwood gas station Full Story
BREAKING NEWS Additional schools announce closures due to shutoff Full Story

Blumenthal: 'We're in a Watergate moment'

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) says the US is in a Watergate moment where bipartisanship is necessary to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Posted: Aug 22, 2018 2:04 PM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 2:26 PM

It is hard to imagine a historical parallel to the one-two blows that landed flush on the jaw of President Donald Trump Tuesday afternoon, with the nearly simultaneous announcements of Paul Manafort's convictions and Michael Cohen's guilty pleas.

Taken together, the developments represent a thunderous rebuttal by the criminal justice system on behalf of the rule of law and against the President's attempts to demonize the Department of Justice and FBI.

Both proceedings pose serious legal trouble for the President, but the Cohen plea is the graver and more immediate risk. It put a target directly on the President's back.

Cohen was charged with a series of crimes, including some of the same sort of bank fraud that ensnared Manafort. But it will be counts seven and eight that keep Trump and his lawyers up for many nights.

The conduct laid out in those counts deals directly with Trump's efforts to stop Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal from speaking about their alleged affairs with him. Indeed, Trump's involvement is partly spelled out in the indictment itself, even though the President was not named, following Justice Department policy.

If, as Cohen says, Trump not only knew about but directed Cohen's conduct, it means that the President would have been nothing less than a co-conspirator in a federal crime. And this crime, far from concerning long past financial misdeeds, would be a felony that then-candidate Trump committed precisely in order to secure election. It is hard to think of a more prototypical high crime or misdemeanor.

More importantly, the Cohen guilty plea anticipates a process, which already has begun, in which Cohen tells what he knows about those crimes, and probably others, to investigators working for the special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as to prosecutors from the Southern District of New York, where the case is pending.

Typically a criminal defendant would already have provided full information to the government before entering a plea. That didn't happen here. It appears as if the Southern District was dissatisfied with the progress of talks and ready to bring charges last week, prompting Cohen to move quickly into an open-book posture.

SDNY, for its part, is able to eliminate any concern about bringing charges too close to an election. And given the likely credibility and trust between SDNY and Cohen's excellent lawyer, Guy Petrillo, a former Criminal Division chief in that office, the parties probably felt sufficiently comfortable with entering the plea now and continuing the cooperation.

The eventual sentence Cohen gets for the crimes to which he pleaded guilty today -- which without cooperation looks to be in the six to eight year range, plenty long for the father of school-age children -- will depend on the information he is able to provide.

And, of course, since the charges are pending in New York, and not with the Mueller probe, Trump is essentially powerless to try to fire his way out of the mess. No matter what action he takes against Mueller, the case against Cohen remains.

He could pardon Cohen, a move probably made much more politically difficult by the conviction of Manafort; it seems quite a stretch to think that he would pardon both. But even a pardon of Cohen will likely not keep Cohen's information about Trump's involvement from coming to light, once he provides it to the federal prosecutors.

That is because he can be immunized by state authorities if they bring charges against him (i.e. they could promise not to prosecute him), and without the possibility of criminal liability, he would lose Fifth Amendment protections and could be compelled to testify. And any lies he might tell in that testimony -- i.e any material variations from the account he provides to the SDNY -- would expose him to perjury.

Deputy US Attorney Robert Khuzami ended his remarks announcing Cohen pleas with an unusual paean to the rule of law and the notion that the criminal justice system stands at the ready to prosecute wrongdoers without fear of favor.

The immediate subject of the remarks was Cohen, but it was a barely concealed reference to the President of the United States, and his offensive campaign to put himself above the law and demonize the criminal justice system. History may mark today as the day that campaign began to crumble.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 910438

Reported Deaths: 17386
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles3006147000
Riverside667321295
San Bernardino627741072
Orange587251447
San Diego54941870
Kern33881416
Fresno30858436
Sacramento25445484
Santa Clara24313388
Alameda23391461
San Joaquin21630489
Contra Costa18694242
Stanislaus17686397
Tulare17495286
Ventura14300164
Imperial12882336
San Francisco12152140
Monterey1139991
San Mateo11149159
Santa Barbara9814120
Merced9465155
Sonoma9402136
Kings824683
Solano738476
Marin7089128
Madera502074
Placer417857
San Luis Obispo414132
Yolo320759
Butte308752
Santa Cruz280225
Napa196215
Shasta188930
Sutter183712
San Benito144215
El Dorado13284
Yuba129310
Mendocino112921
Tehama8808
Lassen7661
Lake69515
Glenn6573
Nevada6168
Humboldt56710
Colusa5506
Calaveras34218
Amador33016
Tuolumne2714
Inyo22715
Siskiyou1930
Mono1802
Del Norte1781
Mariposa782
Plumas680
Modoc290
Trinity260
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 48°
Oroville
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 57°
Paradise
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 48°
Chester
Clear
16° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 16°
Red Bluff
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 61°
Willows
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 48°
Gusty winds and very dry conditions are continuing to result in a Red Flag Warning for high fire danger today. Temperatures will also be much warmer this afternoon. Dry and mild weather returns on Wednesday and continues through this weekend.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events