Dramatic day for the Trump presidency as Cohen and Manafort both guilty

New York: In one of the most dramatic days of the Trump presidency, the President's former campaign chief was found guilty of eight charges including bank fraud and filing false tax returns while, in a separate case, Trump's former lawyer and personal fixer pleaded guilty to eight charges including breaking campaign finance rules.

The shock plea deal agreed to by Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen will likely have the most significant ramifications for the president given the charges directly relate to efforts to shut down damaging stories about Trump's alleged extra-marital affairs.


Cohen told a New York courtroom that during the 2016 election campaign he violated federal law "in coordination with and at the direction of a federal candidate for office" – a reference to Trump.

Meanwhile, in Virginia a jury convicted Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort of eight counts of tax and bank fraud charges. The judge declared a mistrial for the 10 other counts Manafort was facing.

The Manafort case was the first trial to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but related to his conduct as a lobbyist before he joined the Trump campaign.

Trump immediately distanced himself from the verdict, saying Manafort was a "good man" and that the case had nothing to do with Russian collusion.

The two legal developments occurred virtually simultaneously on Tuesday afternoon US time, adding to the sense of high drama. Trump was just hours away from a scheduled rally in West Virginia, where he will tout new rules relaxing Obama-era limits on carbon emissions.

Cohen is the fifth Trump associate to plead guilty or be charged with criminal wrongdoing since Trump took office, including Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former deputy chairman Richard Gates.

The Cohen grand jury investigation probed his taxi business, as well as hush-money payments to the adult-film actress, Stormy Daniels, and Playboy model Karen McDougal who both claimed to have had sexual relations with Trump years ago.

Both Trump and Cohen had previously denied that the then-candidate was aware of the payoffs, which prosecutors said amounted to illegal campaign contributions on Cohen's behalf.

He paid Daniels $US130,000 ($176,000) just weeks before the 2016 election to stop her from going public about alleged dalliances with Trump.

Cohen worked for Trump from 2007 until this year and previously said he would "take a bullet" for his boss but more recently said his top priority was protecting his and his family's interests.

Developments in the lawsuits have taken place as evidence of continued Russian meddling in US politics surfaces.

Security researchers with Microsoft revealed that the Russian hacking group, known as APT-28, set up a number of fake websites designed to mimick conservative and right-wing organisations in the US.

The evidence has prompted US senators to call for additional sanctions on Russia.

However, on Tuesday Senate leader Mitch McConnell said there was an unlikely to be a vote any time soon on legislation imposing heavy sanctions on Russia if it were found interfering in November’s congressional elections.

McConnell said he was "personally very interested in a Russia sanctions bill" but that there was already a packed legislative agenda for September.

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