Can Mueller Indict the Trump Organization? Former Prosecutors Say it Could Be Coming

Michael Cohen's Tuesday guilty plea to eight charges, including campaign finance violations, raised questions about whether special counsel Robert Mueller's next move could be to indict the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign or even the president himself.

As part of Cohen's plea deal, the president's former personal attorney admitted that "in coordination and at the direction of" then-candidate Donald Trump, he violated campaign finance laws when he paid off two women for their silence over alleged affairs with Trump "for the principal purpose of influencing the election."

Those payments included $130,000 to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal through the use of shell companies. Those payments were later allegedly reimbursed to him by the Trump Organization.

Former federal prosecutors tell Newsweek while it's plausible the Trump Organization or campaign could be indicted based on their alleged involvement in Cohen's crimes, it's unlikely the president himself would be indicted. The Department of Justice has a policy not to indict a sitting U.S. president because it would "undermine the capacity of the executive branch." When it comes to impeachment, that would be entirely left up to Congress.

However, if he were not sitting in the Oval Office, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade said Trump would absolutely be indicted "because it appears based on Cohen's in-court statement, he was directed by President Trump to engage in this." McQuade said the specific charge would likely be the solicitation of a crime.

Both McQuade and Kenyan Brown, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, told Newsweek that based on Cohen's admission of guilt and allegations in court documents from prosecutors, it seems like the Trump Organization may have engaged in a criminal activity and could be indicted. Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, believed it's more likely individuals within the Trump Organization would be indicted for their alleged involvement rather than the corporation as a whole.

Prosecutors laid out the alleged use of false invoices the president's company made to mask 12 monthly payments of $35,000 to reimburse Cohen $420,000. His reimbursement was far more than the original $180,035 Cohen asked for that prosecutors said he paid to quash the stories of Daniels and McDougal from reaching the public.

The Trump campaign was also allegedly involved because of Cohen's admitted violation of campaign finance laws by his intent to influence the election at the direction of the candidate, Trump. "In so doing," prosecutors said, "he coordinated with one or more members of the campaign, including through meetings and phone calls, about the fact, nature, and timing of the payments."

Cohen's recent guilty plea "certainly implicates the president for possible criminal conduct dealing with campaign finance laws," Brown said, adding, "It certainly seems like the circle is closing toward the top of the three, that being our chief executive and or his campaign organization."

Litman said it's more likely individuals would be charged instead of the campaign as an entity, although he agreed with McQuade and Brown that there is nothing legally preventing Mueller from indicting the organization or the campaign as long as there's sufficient evidence.

McQuade said there may be enough.

"It looks like there's that possibility, but I think most people would want more than just Michael Cohen's word," McQuade said. "Chances are they have it or they could get it if they have access to all his emails, financial records and tape recording."

With no cooperation agreement required from Cohen in his plea deal with federal prosecutors, McQuade thinks they will probably sit down with Cohen to see if he'll cooperate and tell the truth in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Tuesday night that Cohen is willing to tell Mueller's team "all that he knows" and that he would never accept a "pardon from someone who acted so corruptly as president."

During an interview on The Rachel Maddow Show, Michael Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, said that Cohen has information that Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be very interested in hearing.

— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) August 22, 2018