Can Trump Pardon Manafort and Cohen? Not so Fast, Warns Senator

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer warned President Donald Trump against any thoughts he might have of pardoning Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort.

As Trump prepared to speak to a crowd of supporters at a "Make America Great Again" rally in West Virginia, his former attorney and fixer Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including campaign-finance violations in which Trump was implicated.

In a double-whammy, Trump's former campaign manager Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of fraud in a separate trial and now awaits sentencing. The jury could not reach a verdict on 10 other counts against Manafort. Both men face prison time.

"My message to the president: You better not talk about pardons for Michael Cohen or Paul Manafort tonight, or anytime in the future," Schumer, who represents New York, Trump's home state, wrote on Twitter.

At the West Virginia rally, Trump supporters continued to chant "lock her up" about the president's former rival Hillary Clinton, despite the news about Manafort and Cohen, and that special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation was closing in on him.

In his plea deal, Cohen, who had worked for Trump for years, admitted he had made two hush payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with the president.

Those payments were made before the 2016 election "for the principal purpose of influencing the election," Cohen told the Manhattan court judge, "in coordination and at the direction of the candidate for federal office." They were not, however, declared as campaign spending.

Though Cohen did not explicitly mention Trump's name, he implicated the president in the campaign-finance violations by suggesting Trump had directed the payments to be made. Trump denied knowing about the payments until they appeared in reporters' stories.

Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani had admitted that Cohen had been reimbursed by Trump for the $130,000 payment to Daniels but also said this was done over time through general expenses, and that the president did not know what the money was specifically for.

In the Manafort trial, the jury convicted him on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of hiding a foreign bank account. But the judge declared a mistrial on the 10 counts on which the jury could not reach a verdict.

Manafort was Trump's 2016 campaign manager until he quit in August before the election after reports emerged of his highly lucrative consultancy work with Ukraine's Yanukovych regime before it was ousted. He was also accused of covertly lobbying for Ukraine in Washington. Manafort could now face up to 80 years in jail.

It is another scalp for special counsel Mueller, whose sprawling investigation has focused on Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

"It's a very sad thing that happened," Trump told reporters in West Virginia after the Manafort verdicts, reported BBC News, adding that it had "nothing to do with Russian collusion."

While Manafort's conviction isn't directly related to any potential collusion with Russia, the conviction "strengthens Mueller's hand in his wider probe of Trump's 2016 campaign," reported Politico.

Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis said his client was willing to talk to Mueller.

Trump's former national security adviser General Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian diplomat.

Rick Gates, an adviser to the Trump campaign and Manafort's former business partner, pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the U.S. and lying to the FBI.

And George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to Trump's campaign, also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI when it was handling the Russia investigation over his dealings with people connected to the Russian government.

Donald Trump West Virginia
President Donald Trump during a rally in Charleston, West Virginia, on August 21. He will speak at a rally in Johnson City, Tennessee, Monday night. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images