Donald Trump’s future as president is looking uncertain after his former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple charges including tax fraud, campaign finance violation and false statements to a bank.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York had been investigating Cohen.
The former Trump attorney said he paid ‘hush money’ to porn star Stormy Daniels and another woman, Karen McDougal, in the run-up to the 2016 election, to stop them talking about their sexual encounters with Trump.
The president wasn’t named in the court papers but Cohen said he was acting “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office”.
Campaign funding law states that money cannot be used for personal use and that all payments must be disclosed.
'This will strengthen his supporters'
Republican Jan Halper-Hayes told talkRADIO that Trump supporters were likely to “separate character from doing a job”.
Comparing the scandal to Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, she said: “Trump supporters focus on the policies and the good that he’s doing in the US.
“The reason for the separation between character and what he does, when Bill Clinton has said ‘I didn’t have sex with that woman in the White House’, at that point the American public basically separated character from doing a job as a leader.”
“But [Clinton] did get impeached,” pointed out Jane Moore.
“He got impeached for a different reason,” argued Halper-Hayes (Clinton was impeached for making false statements in court over the Lewinsky case and in another sexual harassment suit brought against him).
Trump has denied having affairs with Daniels or McDougal. His current lawyer Rudy Giuliani has previously said the money was paid to settle a “personal and false allegation” and that there was “no campaign violation”.
“This whole thing is only going to strengthen his supporters,” added Halper-Hayes.
'If true, Donald Trump is guilty of criminal violation'
But US foreign policy specialist Professor Scott Lucas said he’s “surprised [Trump] has lasted this long”.
“It’s extremely damaging that yesterday Michael Cohen, his former lawyer, his fixer, said that when paying off these two women each at least $150,000 just before the 2016 election, that these were payments that were authorised by Donald Trump,” he said.
Daniels was paid $130,000 (£100,573) and McDougal $150,000 (£116,046).
“Under US campaign finance law, it is illegal to make a donation of more than $2,700 (£2,088 to a campaign,” he continued.
“When Michael Cohen paid off those women he was violating that law. He’s saying he was simply carrying out the orders of the president, which if true, means that Donald Trump himself is guilty of a criminal violation.
“If not impeached or convicted, he could be pushed into resigning next year.”