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Stark contrast in GOP, Democrat responses to Cohen sentencing



The contrast in reactions from Republicans and Democrats on the sentencing of Michael Cohen and the potential legal repercussions for President Donald Trump could not be more stark.

A number of top Republican lawmakers have shrugged off the fact Trump has been implicated in serious crimes by his former personal lawyer and federal prosecutors. Meanwhile, Democrats have rallied behind the message that no one is above the law – not even the president.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley on Wednesday said Cohen is a liar who cannot be trusted, echoing recent statements made by Trump. During a conference call with reporters, Grassley said, “To what extent do you want to put confidence in what a liar says?”

Read more: Here’s a glimpse at Trump’s decades long history of business ties to Russia

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump who will become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, also downplayed Wednesday’s developments. “Any time a former lawyer of yours goes to jail it’s probably not a good day, but I have yet to see any evidence coming from Mr. Cohen of collusion,” Graham said.

In an interview on the matter on Tuesday, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch took things a step further when he said he did not care that federal prosecutors implicated Trump in felonies.

“I don’t care, all I can say is he is doing a good job as president. … I don’t think he was involved in crimes but even then, you know, you can make anything a crime under the current laws if you want to,” Hatch said.

Comparatively, Democrats have only just stopped short of labeling Trump a criminal.

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu on Wednesday told CNN, “Michael Cohen specifically says that Donald Trump directed him to make these campaign finance payments. That means we have a person sitting in the White House right now who is essentially an unindicted co-conspirator.”

Similarly, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted saying Cohen’s sentencing shows “nobody is above the law,” including “the President himself.”

Read more: Trump has been implicated in several federal crimes, but here’s why experts say he hasn’t faced legal consequences

Recent developments surrounding Cohen and Trump have also increased discussions on impeachment.

Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, likely the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told CNN on Sunday that the campaign finance violations Cohen implicated Trump in would be “impeachable offenses.”

“Whether they’re important enough to justify an impeachment is a different question,” Nadler added.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to eight federal crimes, including tax fraud, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations. The campaign finance violations were related to hush money payments to two women who allegedly had affairs with Trump. Cohen said he made the payments at Trump’s direction in order to influence the election.

Federal prosecutors in a sentencing memo last Friday endorsed Cohen’s allegation, stating he made the payments “in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump.

Justice Department policy says a sitting president cannot be indicted, but that is not settled law and there is now a broader discussion about what legal repercussions Trump might face moving forward.

More recently, Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in a plan to build Trump Tower in Moscow. This came after a new plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion with and the Trump campaign.

Trump denies collusion occurred, refers to the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt,” and has called Cohen a liar.

On Wednesday, the president’s former lawyer and fixer was sentenced to three years in prison over the nine counts he pleaded guilty to.

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