Trump Could Face Jail Time Once He Leaves Office
WASHINGTON, DC – December 10, 2018
President Trump could face impeachment and a jail sentence if money payments reported by his former lawyer are proven to be campaign finance violations, Democratic lawmakers said on Sunday.
“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him — that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the very real prospect of jail time,” California Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.
The result is a growing sense of crisis as Republicans begin to weigh their chances of political survival.
Steve Bannon, the former Trump strategist, said 2019 was shaping up to be a year of “siege warfare.”
“The Democrats are going to weaponise the Mueller report and the president needs a team that can go to the mattresses,” he told the Washington Post.
“The president can’t trust the GOP to be there when it counts . . . They don’t feel any sense of duty or responsibility to stand with Trump.”
With a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, opposition politicians are looking to aggressively investigate possible election interference and fraudulent efforts in obtaining the highest office in the country.
“The Republican Congress absolutely tried to shield the president,” the New York Democrat said on CNN’s State of the Union. “The new Congress will not try to shield the president. It will try to get to the bottom of this in order to serve the American people and stop this massive fraud on the American people.”
Court filings on Friday in cases that stemmed from a federal probe into Russian activities during the 2016 presidential election pointed to potential problem areas for Trump, including whether he instructed six-figure payments to two women during the campaign to keep quiet about affairs.
Federal prosecutors sought prison time for longtime Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen for paying off an adult film star and a former Playboy model at Trump's behest, evading taxes and lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Organization building in Moscow.
If the payments were shown to be infractions of the campaign finance law, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler told CNN that that would be grounds for impeachment.
"Well, they would be impeachable offenses. Whether they are important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question," said Nadler, who will lead the Judiciary Committee when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January. “But certainly, they’d be impeachable offences, because even though they were committed before the president became president, they were committed in the service of fraudulently obtaining the office.
“What these indictments and filings show is that the president was at the centre of a massive fraud – several massive frauds against the American people,” he added.
Under U.S. law, campaign contributions, defined as things of value given to a campaign to influence an election, must be disclosed. Such payments are also limited to $2,700 per person.
The Department of Justice has argued that a sitting president cannot be indicted or prosecuted, a position that has been disputed among legal theorists and politicians, but Schiff believes the “powerful case” prosecutors made for Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, to serve a prison sentence may apply equally to the President.
“To have the Justice Department basically say that the president of the United States not only coordinated but directed an illegal campaign scheme that may have had an election-altering impact is pretty breathtaking,” he added.
Republicans believe the sweeping reach of Robert Mueller’s federal probe could consume the rest of the party, amid fears the White House does not have a workable strategy beyond simple denials.
A sentencing memo filed by prosecutors in New York on Friday against Cohen raised the stakes.
“In particular, and as Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” it said, using the term prosecutors have deployed to refer to the President.
It is the first time investigators have said they believe Cohen acted with Trump to silence two women who said they had affairs with the future president.
Trump has denied the affairs and any role in payments, and has not been accused of any offences.
He issued two tweets on Sunday dismissing the evidence against him, including the recent testimony of James Comey, the former director of the FBI.
“This whole deal is a Rigged Fraud headed up by dishonest people who would do anything so that I could not become President,” he wrote. “They are now exposed!”
On 245 occasions, former FBI Director James Comey told House investigators he didn’t know, didn’t recall, or couldn’t remember things when asked. Opened investigations on 4 Americans (not 2) - didn’t know who signed off and didn’t know Christopher Steele. All lies!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2018
Yet the accelerating flow of court documents and legal pleadings as the investigation enters its final phase has Democrats openly discussing whether the President can be prosecuted.
Although most legal analysts believe a sitting president cannot be indicted, Adam Schiff, who will head the House intelligence committee when a new term begins in January, said that would not protect him once his term ends.
“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the Justice Department may indict him,” he told CBS. “He may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”