Watergate prosecutor: Cohen plea is 'grounds for impeachment' for Trump


'This is clear evidence that the president committed crimes.'

After Tuesday's startling developments in Alexandria, VA., and New York City courtrooms, many experts have no doubt that impeaching Trump is now on the table.

Not only were both former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen convicted of serious crimes on the same day — Cohen also testified that he committed some of those crimes at Trump's bidding.

"This is clear evidence that the president committed crimes. And that is grounds for impeachment, there is no question of it," assistant Watergate special prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell Tuesday night.

Wine-Banks was referring to Cohen's plea agreement, which is especially dangerous for Trump. Trump's longtime “fixer” pleaded guilty to eight charges Tuesday, including tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful corporate contributions, and excessive campaign contributions.

Specifically, Cohen admitted to violating campaign law at the direction of Trump for the purpose of influencing the election. The two men paid off a former adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, so she wouldn't go public at the height of the 2016 campaign with news about her previous affair with Trump.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has admitted Trump knew about the hush-money payment.

The New York Times noted that Cohen's charge "carried echoes of President Richard M. Nixon, who was named an 'unindicted co-conspirator' in the special prosecutor’s investigation of Watergate."

Talking to reporters Tuesday evening, Trump completely avoided questions about Cohen's guilty plea. Instead, he insisted that Manafort being convicted "doesn't involve me" and "has nothing to do with Russian collusion."

Wine-Banks had a pointed response to this kind of defense.

"I don't care that it's not Russia," she said. "It's not Russiagate, but it's still Trumpgate. This is [about] crimes by the president of the United States, and it affected the election."

Now the case for impeachment seems stronger than ever.

"I think impeachment is now squarely going to define the midterms,” Rob Stutzman, a Republican, told the Times. “It’s inescapable now that Democrats can legitimately raise that issue."

If Democrats win control of the House and or the Senate in November, that would give them the authority to hold impeachment hearings on Trump.

For now, many of Trump's media allies are standing by him, as they frantically lower the bar for what constitutes acceptable behavior for a sitting president. Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt actually argued that Trump can't be impeached if he isn't proven to have conspired with Russia.

The problem for Trump and the Republicans who support him, of course, is that a president can be impeached for any number of crimes or transgressions.

Tuesday's events obliterated any remaining hope Trump may have had of simply clinging to Fox News and riding out the political and legal storms to come.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.