admin Posted August 22, 2018 Share Posted August 22, 2018 Michael Cohen's bombshell admission that he paid hush money to two women before the 2016 election at the direction of Donald Trump has once again fulled talk of the US president being impeached. The stunning guilty plea came on the same day that Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's former campaign chairman, was found guilty of eight charges in a separate fraud trial in Alexandria, Virginia, where he could face up to 80 years in jail when sentenced at a later date. © ASSOCIATED PRESS Michael Cohen, former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves federal court after reaching a plea agreement in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Cohen, has pleaded guilty to charges including campaign finance fraud stemming from hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)Call for the president's impeachment have been growing ever since allegations emerged that Mr Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into Michael Flynn's links to Russia. The claim stemmed from a memo written by Mr Comey. © ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE - In this March 8, 2018, file photo, Paul Manafort, left, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, walks with this wife Kathleen Manafort, as they arrive at the Alexandria Federal Courthouse in Alexandria, Va. The special counsel’s office says it plans to call 35 witnesses in the upcoming trial of Manafort. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)Cohen's account appears to implicate Mr Trump himself in a crime, though whether - or when - a president can be prosecuted remains a matter of legal dispute. Here's a look at what needs to happen for Mr Trump to be impeached. What is impeachment? © Provided by Telegraph Media Group Limited Congress is currently stacked in Donald Trump's favour - Credit: AFPImpeachment is the process by which Congress puts certain officials, namely the president, on trial. The constitution lays out a broad scope of offences that can lead to impeachment: “Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors”. It does not mean the president will necessarily be kicked out of office. It proceeds like a bill passing through legislature. First, a majority in the House of Representatives - 218 out of 435 members - must approve articles of impeachment previously approved in committee. Consequently, the current make-up of the House favours Mr Trump. As it stands, Republicans hold 238 seats while Democrats hold 193. (Four seats are vacant.) That means 25 Republicans would need to be persuaded to vote to impeach Mr Trump, which seems an unlikely scenario. Then it goes to the Senate, where a two-thirds majority vote is needed to convict the president and consequently remove him from office - even getting the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster is difficult for either party these days. What does history tell us? © Provided by Telegraph Media Group Limited Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 - Credit: APHistory books show impeachment is far from straightforward. There have been two presidents who have been impeached in the past and neither were removed from office. Andrew Johnson was the first leader to go through the process in 1868. He was charged with breaking the law after he tried to replace the US secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, without congressional permission. At the time - in the aftermath of the civil war - the president was required to consult the senate about such decisions. His impeachment passed to the Senate, where he escaped being removed from office by a one-vote margin. The other president was, of course, Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in 1998, but he was acquitted in the Senate trial. © Provided by Telegraph Media Group Limited Bill Clinton was impeached over the Monica Lewinsky scandal - Credit: AP Richard Nixon would almost certainly have faced impeachments proceedings in 1974 over the Watergate scandal and undoubtedly would have been removed from office. However, the disgraced president resigned before it got that far and he handed the presidency over to Gerald Ford. What could Trump be charged with? © ASSOCIATED PRESS President Donald Trump speaks during a rally Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, at the Civic Center in Charleston W.Va. (AP Photo/Tyler Evert)Many people have said Mr Trump is not fit to be president, but this is not an impeachable offence, even under the broad terms of the constitution. So what could he be charged with? As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining.... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017 Some have pointed to his conflict of interest over his business dealings. Legal scholars have pointed out that as soon as he was sworn into office, he was in direct violation of the foreign-emoluments clause in Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution, which states: "... no person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office or Title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.” With significant financial interests all over the world, this indeed a murky area for Mr Trump but he has taken enough steps away from his business empire to ensure this is a non-starter. Mr Mueller is said to be investigating obstruction of justice as part of his inquiry, which could be trickier for Mr Trump. Obstruction of the justice was one of the charges against Mr Clinton and the same charges were being levelled against the president as soon as he fired FBI chief James Comey, who was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign's links to Russia. Mr Comey's memo claiming that Mr Trump urged him to end the investigation into Mr Flynn has only fuelled those accusations. On CNN, Independent Sen @SenAngusKing now carefully discussing conditions necessary to impeach a president for obstruction of justice — Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) May 16, 2017 "The memo is powerful evidence of obstruction of justice and certainly merits immediate and prompt investigation by an independent special prosecutor," said Democratic US Senator Richard Blumenthal. Now he's being implicated in the criminal proceedings against Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer. Daniel Petalas, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department's public integrity section, said: "This brings President Trump closer into the criminal conduct." "The president has certain protections while a sitting president, but if it were true, and he was aware and tried to influence an election, that could be a federal felony offense," Petalas said. "This strikes close to home." So did he break the law? © Provided by Telegraph Media Group Limited FBI Director James Comey was reportedly asked by Mr Trump to end his investigation into Michael Flynn - Credit: EPALegal experts say Mr Trump is certainly on thin ice over his comments, as quoted in Comey's memo. "For the president to tell the FBI to end a potential criminal investigation, that's obstruction of justice," said Erwin Chereminsky, a constitutional law professor and dean of University of California, Irvine School of Law. "This is what caused President Nixon to resign from office." But the experts said intent was a critical element of an obstruction of justice charge, and the president's words could be subject to interpretation and possibly put into the context of other actions, like Mr Comey's termination. The fact that the president apparently said he "hoped" Mr Comey would end the Flynn investigation rather than more directly ordering it "makes for a weaker but still viable case," Christopher Slobogin, a criminal law professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, told Reuters. But it is Cohen's guilty plea that could be the undoing of the president. “The verdict in the Manafort trial isn’t nearly as worrisome to me as the Cohen agreement and the Cohen statement,” former Trump adviser Michael Caputo told Politico. “It’s probably the worst thing so far in this whole investigation stage of the presidency.” What next politically? The case against Mr Trump would have to be damning and watertight for Republicans to act against him. "Obviously it's not good for Trump," Sol Wisenberg, who conducted grand jury questioning of President Bill Clinton during the Whitewater investigation, said of the plea bargain. "I'm assuming he's not going to be indicted because he's a sitting president, Wisenberg added. "But it leads him closer to ultimate impeachment proceedings, particularly if the Democrats take back the House." BREAKING: All Dems on @OversightDems & @HouseJudDems Demand Immediate Investigation of #POTUS AG & Aides. #ComeyMemohttps://t.co/3ekbwbJu9Y — House OversightDems (@OversightDems) May 17, 2017 One Republican lawyer close to the White House also worried that Cohen's admission could give Democrats fodder for impeachment if they take the House in November. “It’s the only excuse they’ll need,” the lawyer told Politico. “And believe me, they won’t need much of an excuse.” Who would be the next president? If President Trump is impeached and removed from office, which at the moment is unlikely, Vice President Mike Pence would simply take over. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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